Mitochondrial DNA damage in non-melanoma skin cancer

Br J Cancer. 2003 Jan 13;88(1):90-5. doi: 10.1038/sj.bjc.6600773.


Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) damage, predominantly encompassing point mutations, has been reported in a variety of cancers. Here we present in human skin, the first detailed study of the distribution of multiple forms of mtDNA damage in nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) compared to histologically normal perilesional dermis and epidermis. We present the first entire spectrum of deletions found between different types of skin tumours and perilesional skin. In addition, we provide the first quantitative data for the incidence of the common deletion as well as the first report of specific tandem duplications in tumours from any tissue. Importantly, this work shows that there are clear differences in the distribution of deletions between the tumour and the histologically normal perilesional skin. Furthermore, DNA sequencing of four mutation 'hotspot' regions of the mitochondrial genome identified a previously unreported somatic heteroplasmic mutation in an SCC patient. In addition, 81 unreported and reported homoplasmic single base changes were identified in the other NMSC patients. Unlike the distribution of deletions and the heteroplasmic mutation, these homoplasmic mutations were present in both tumour and perilesional skin, which suggests that for some genetic studies the traditional use of histologically normal perilesional skin from NMSC patients may be limited. Currently, it is unclear whether mtDNA damage has a direct link to skin cancer or it may simply reflect an underlying nuclear DNA instability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • DNA Damage*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics*
  • Gene Deletion*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Skin Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Tandem Repeat Sequences


  • DNA, Mitochondrial