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The degree of DNA-instability as revealed by immunohistochemical staining with anti-cytidine antibody after acid hydrolysis (DNA-instability test) has been recently used as a marker of malignancy. This technique was applied to examine 17 skin tissue samples of Bowen’s disease, 47 of actinic keratosis, 15 of squamous cell carcinoma, 5 of seborrheic keratosis, and 10 of normal skin. All benign neoplastic cells of seborrheic keratosis and normal epidermal cells were negative. On the other hand, all cancer cells were positive with the DNA-instability test, indicating their malignancy, but all basal cells in Bowen’s disease were completely negative. Compatible with this result, the basal cells in Bowen’s disease were characteristically normal as evident in other histochemical examinations. Thus, they were negative with p53 immunohistochemistry, with normal signals of chromosome 17 in situ hybridisation and argyrophilic nucleolar organiser region, and showed slightly enhanced proliferative activity as revealed by proliferating cell nuclear antigen immunohistochemistry. Immunohistochemical staining with 34 ß E12 (monoclonal antibody against cytokeratins 1, 5, 10, and 14), which stains all normal epidermal keratinocytes including basal cells, showed that only the basal cells of Bowen’s disease stained strongly and homogeneously, while all cancer cells in the upper layers of Bowen’s disease and all layers of actinic keratosis were only sporadically or weakly stained. Staining with 34 ß B4 (monoclonal antibody against cytokeratin 1), which recognises the whole epidermis except for the basal layer in the normal epidermis, showed that the basal cells in the Bowen’s disease were completely negative, and lower layer cells in the actinic keratosis and upper layer cells in Bowen’s disease were only sporadically stained positive, although the superficial layer cells in actinic keratosis stained strongly and homogeneously. Our findings clearly indicate that the basal cells in Bowen’s disease are normal. In support of this conclusion, the same cells showed normal morphology on electron microscopy with preserved basement membrane, although the latter was often damaged in actinic keratosis.
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