, Volume 87, Issue 5, pp 783-798
Date: 25 Dec 2012

Non-melanoma skin cancer in mouse and man

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As a frontier organ, skin is exposed to different environmental and/or occupational chemicals which cause cutaneous cancers in experimental animals. In mice, 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthrancene (DMBA) and the phorbol ester 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate (TPA) are frequently used as skin model tumor initiator and promoter, respectively. The sequential administration of DMBA and TPA leads to the appearance of a large number of benign papillomas, of which some convert later into invasive squamous cell carcinomas (SCC). At the molecular level, initiation of carcinogenesis in mouse skin consists in the mutational activation of the Ha-ras oncoprotein. HA-RAS mutations are rare in human SCC, but HA-RAS-mutated tumors appear in melanoma patients treated with B-raf inhibitors, indicating that initiated, HA-RAS-mutated stem cells also reside in human skin. Similarly, UV-induced human SCC show footprint mutations in the tumor suppressor gene TP53 which are also observed in UV-induced mouse SCC. Strong species differences exist with respect to phorbol ester-mediated tumor promotion. While certain mouse strains are very susceptible, other rodent species are much less sensitive. Likewise, humans appear to be much more resistant to phorbol ester-mediated skin toxicity. Papilloma formation as a result of a chemical insult is uncommon in men, questioning the relevance of this preneoplastic lesion for humans. However, skin tumorigenesis in the experimental situation and in humans appears to follow common molecular mechanisms, even though there are species differences in the morphological correlates to the preneoplastic state. Therefore, we recommend not simply labeling them as irrelevant for human risk assessment.