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Experts issue warning about 'nail abnormality' linked to cancer

Experts issue warning about 'nail abnormality' linked to cancer

In a new study, scientists found the nail condition could increase the risk of several types of cancer

Experts have issued a warning about a rare nail condition that has been linked to cancer following a new study into the subject.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have recently warned people about a benign nail abnormality that may lead to the diagnosis of a rare disorder known as BAP1 tumour predisposition syndrome.

BAP1 increases the risk of someone developing cancer of the skin, eyes, kidneys, and the tissue that lines the chest and abdomen.

The study looked at 47 individuals with the syndrome from 35 different families.

Co-lead author and genetic counsellor Alexandra Lebensohn said: “When asked about nail health during a baseline genetic assessment, a very astute patient reported that he had noticed subtle changes in his nails.

The condition is only likely to affect one nail. (Dermatology Consultation Service)
The condition is only likely to affect one nail. (Dermatology Consultation Service)

“His comment prompted us to systematically evaluate other participants for nail changes and uncover this new finding.”

Researchers conducted biopsies of the nail and nail bed of several participants, which confirmed their suspicions of a a benign tumour abnormality known as an onychopapilloma.

The condition causes a coloured band, which usually displays itself as white or red, along the length of the nail.

This can be sometimes been seen along with a thickening of the nail underneath the discolouration, and a thickening at the end of the nail.

Among people who participated in the study with BAP1 tumour predisposition syndrome aged 30 and older, 88 percent had onychopapilloma tumours affecting multiple nails.

(Dermatology Consultation Service)
(Dermatology Consultation Service)

After looking at these results, researchers are now urging that nail screening will be particularly valuable for a patient with a family history of melanoma.

According to the World Health Organisation, melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that can be life-threatening if not detected at an early point.

While obvious changes in moles or skin lesions are commonly associated with melanoma, there are a lot more subtle signs that individuals should be aware of.

Recognising them sooner rather than later can be crucial for diagnosis and treatment.

Edward Cowen, head of Dermatology Consultation Services at NIH said: “This finding is rarely seen in the general population, and we believe the presence of nail changes that suggest onychopapillomas on multiple nails should prompt consideration of a diagnosis of BAP1 tumour predisposition syndrome.”

Scientists have said that it is caused by mutations in the BAP1 gene, which normally acts as a tumour suppressor, among other functions.

Co-senior author of the study, Raffit Hassan, said: “This discovery is an excellent example of how multidisciplinary teams and natural history studies can reveal insights about rare diseases.”

Featured Image Credit: Dermatology Consultation Service/NIAMS/Kinga Krzeminska/Getty Images

Topics: Skincare, Health, Cancer