Skin cancer makes you older – Dutch research

The number of Dutch people getting skin cancer is growing. A total of 15,836 people were diagnosed in 2016, compared to 14,738 patients a year earlier. Skin cancer is therefore the most common type of cancer in the Netherlands.

UV radiation certainly plays a very important role, but skin cancer can have many causes. It can be caused by the sun, but also by your lifestyle, tanning bed, smoking, stress, air pollution. All this leads to DNA damage.

Another cause may also be that the epigenetics of the DNA have changed and no longer work properly. Epigenetics literally means above the DNA and can turn genes on or off. They care how a body cell reads the genes without physically changing the DNA sequence.

Relationship between skin aging and basal cell carcinoma

A Dutch study takes a different view. She studied the relationship between skin aging and the development of basal cell carcinoma. One of the three most common skin cancers.

Below is an example of a basal cell carcinoma, which is a pigmented variant. A characteristic of a basal cell carcinoma is the shiny appearance, often accompanied by small blood vessels.

Skin Cancer Basal Cell Carcinoma

It appears that skin aging is related to the development of basal cell carcinoma, and vice versa, a higher congenital risk of basal cell carcinoma leads to faster skin aging. This recent study was conducted on 604 adults.

In the study, a “genetic risk score”, ie the congenital risk, for developing basal cell carcinoma was calculated for all 604 adult study participants. And in addition, based on photos of the face, the age, the number of skin wrinkles and pigment spots were assessed.

The findings show that adults with a higher estimated age have a higher genetic predisposition to developing basal cell carcinoma (they had a higher genetic basal cell carcinoma risk score). Participants with more wrinkles and more pigment spots also have a higher calculated genetic risk of developing basal cell carcinoma.

In conclusion, this study shows that genetic susceptibility to basal cell carcinoma also increases the rate of skin aging.


van der Poort EKJ, Gunn DA, Beekman M, et al. Basal cell carcinoma genetic susceptibility increases the rate of skin ageing: a Mendelian randomization study. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2020;34(1):97-100.

While you are here

If your doctor has diagnosed skin cancer, it can be a bit of a shock. The following conversation with the doctor is less well received or understood. After you leave the office hours, you may be wondering – now what? How can I prevent this in the future?

In the Netherlands, the number of people with skin cancer is increasing explosively. In the year 2021, approximately 82,800 Dutch people were diagnosed with a form of skin cancer. The KWF expects this trend to continue.

It is important to know which type of skin cancer you have. The 3 most common skin cancers are: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (PCC) and melanoma.

Also read about Diagnosis of skin cancer, now what?

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