Xeroderma pigmentosum: an updated review

Alexander KC Leung, Benjamin Barankin, Joseph M Lam, Kin Fon Leong, Kam Lun Hon


Background: Early recognition of xeroderma pigmentosum is important to minimize the complications arising from the harmful effects of exposure to ultraviolet radiation. This narrative review aims to familiarize physicians with the clinical features, diagnosis and management of xeroderma pigmentosum.

Methods: A search was conducted in December 2021 in PubMed Clinical Queries using the key term “xeroderma pigmentosum”. The search strategy included all clinical trials, observational studies and reviews published within the past 10 years. The information retrieved from the search was used in the compilation of this article.

Results: Xeroderma pigmentosum is a condition of abnormal DNA repair of ultraviolet radiation-induced and oxidative DNA damage, which leads to increased skin cancer susceptibility. Approximately 50% of patients with xeroderma pigmentosum have increased photosensitivity and certain types of xeroderma pigmentosum are more prone to ocular disease and progressive neurodegeneration depending on the causative mutation. The diagnosis should be suspected in patients with increased photosensitivity and characteristic cutaneous, ophthalmological and neurological findings. A definite diagnosis can be made by the identification of biallelic mutation in one of the causative genes. Strict and consistent sun avoidance and protection and early detection and treatment of premalignant and malignant skin lesions are the mainstays of management. Treatment options for actinic keratosis include cryotherapy, topical imiquimod, topical 5-fluorouracil, chemical peeling, excision, CO2 laser resurfacing, fractional/pulsed laser therapy, and photodynamic therapy. Cutaneous malignancy can be treated by photodynamic therapy, curettage and electrodesiccation, or surgical excision. Oral isotretinoin, oral niacinamide, topical imiquimod and topical fluorouracil can be used for the prevention of skin malignancy. Treatment options for poikiloderma include chemical peeling, dermabrasion and laser resurfacing. Methylcellulose eyedrops and soft ultraviolet-protective contact lenses may be used to keep the cornea moist and protect against the harmful effects of keratitis sicca. Investigational therapies include the use of T4 endonuclease-V liposome lotion and oral nicotinamide to reduce the rate of actinic keratoses and non-melanoma skin cancers and gene therapy for radical cure of this condition.

Conclusion: Although currently there is no cure for xeroderma pigmentosum, increased awareness and early diagnosis of the condition, followed by rigorous sun avoidance and protection and optimal management, can dramatically improve the quality of life and life expectancy.

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Accepted: ; Published: .


Citation: Leung AKC, Barankin B, Lam JM, Leong KF, Hon KL. Xeroderma pigmentosum: an updated review. Drugs Context. 2022;11:2022-2-5. https://doi.org/10.7573/dic.2022-2-5

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