Epigenetics and cutaneous neoplasms: from mechanism to therapy

Epigenomics. 2023 Feb;15(3):167-187. doi: 10.2217/epi-2023-0016. Epub 2023 Apr 5.


Epigenetics encompasses heritable, reversible gene expression patterns that do not arise from mutations in genomic DNA but, rather, are regulated by DNA methylation, histone modifications, RNA modifications and ncRNAs; and epigenetic dysregulation is increasingly recognized as a mechanism of neoplastic disease progression as well as resistance to cancer therapy. This review article focuses on epigenetic modifications implicated in the progression and therapeutic resistance of common cutaneous malignancies, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, T-cell lymphoma and malignant melanoma, with an emphasis on therapeutic strategies that may be used to target such disease-associated alterations.

Keywords: BCC; CTCL; DNA methylation; cSCC; epigenetics; histone; melanoma; ncRNA; skin cancer.

Plain language summary

Epigenetics involves the study of how genes can be turned on or off by factors that affect how these genes are packaged and regulated. In cancer, there are often epigenetic changes that contribute to the formation of tumors. Many of these epigenetic changes, some of which can be passed down through generations, increase the risk of skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, T-cell lymphoma and malignant melanoma. Emerging therapies designed to target these epigenetic changes may be effective treatments for these types of skin cancers. Researchers are currently investigating how to best use these therapies to help the ever-increasing number of people with skin cancer.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell* / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell* / pathology
  • DNA Methylation
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / genetics
  • Skin Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Skin Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / therapy