Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) of the skin represents a unique group of tumors strongly associated with exposure to UV light. Unlike squamous carcinoma of the skin, BCC is generally indolent, noninvasive, and rarely metastatic. To study the involvement of tumor suppressor genes in these neoplasms, we analyzed 36 BCCs for p53 mutations and a subset of these tumors for loss of chromosomes 17p and 9q. Sixty-nine % of sporadic BCCs had lost a 9q allele, with the common area of loss surrounding the putative gene for nevoid BCC or Gorlin's syndrome. Forty-four % (16 of 36) of BCCs had a mutated p53 allele, usually opposite pyrimidine tracts, which is consistent with UV-induced mutations. Surprisingly, only one tumor had lost a 17p allele, and in all BCCs only one p53 allele was inactivated. This is in direct contrast to other epithelial tumors, which usually progress by the inactivation of both p53 alleles.

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