Genomic instability is the driving force behind cancer development. Human syndromes with DNA repair deficiencies comprise unique opportunities to study the clinical consequences of faulty genome maintenance leading to premature aging and premature cancer development. These syndromes include chromosomal breakage syndromes with defects in DNA damage signal transduction and double-strand break repair, mismatch repair defective syndromes as well as nucleotide excision repair defective syndromes. The same genes that are severely affected in these model diseases may harbour more subtle variations in the 'healthy' normal population leading to genomic instability, cancer development, and accelerated aging at later stages of life. Thus, studying those syndromes and the molecular mechanisms behind can significantly contribute to our understanding of (skin) cancerogenesis as well as to the development of novel individualized preventive and therapeutic anticancer strategies. The establishment of centers of excellence for studying rare genetic model diseases may be helpful in this direction.