Gorlin-Goltz syndrome

Last revised by Mostafa Elfeky on 16 Jul 2023

Gorlin-Goltz syndrome, also known as the basal cell nevus syndrome, nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome, or just Gorlin syndrome, is a rare phakomatosis characterized by multiple odontogenic keratocysts (OKC), multiple basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and other abnormalities.

The condition is thought to occur in ~1 in 60,000 live births while 0.4% of patients with basal cell carcinoma are estimated to have Gorlin syndrome. ~2% and 22% of patients with basal cell carcinoma younger than 45 years and 19 years of age, respectively, are estimated to have the syndrome. 

It is an autosomal dominant syndrome with complete penetrance and variable expressivity. It is related to a mutation in the PTCH tumor suppressor gene on chromosome 9, which encodes for the "Sonic Hedgehog" receptor 3. 35-50% of affected individuals are the result of new mutations. Individuals with the syndrome are sensitive to ionizing radiation, with one study showing accumulation of p53 in exposed cells 3. Patients with Gorlin syndrome may be hypersensitive to and contraindicated from receiving radiation therapy.

A clinical diagnosis can be made using major and minor criteria. To make the diagnosis, either two major or one major and two minor criteria must be met.

  • basal cell carcinoma: >2 or 1 under the age 20

  • odontogenic keratocysts (see case 1)

  • palmar pits: 3 or more

  • bilamellar calcification of the falx cerebri

  • rib anomalies: bifid rib (see image), fused, splayed

  • first degree relative with Gorlin syndrome

It was described by Robert James Gorlin (1923-2006) and Robert William Goltz (1923-2014) 5 in 1960 2, although cases had been reported in the literature prior to this.

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