Early diagnosis of xeroderma pigmentosum, a rare genetic disorder, is crucial to preventing skin cancers and other effects of the disease, says Dr. Kenneth Kraemer, chief of the DNA repair section of the dermatology branch at the National Cancer Institute's Center for Cancer Research. Symptoms include hypersensitivity to ultraviolet light, but patients might not have visible signs of sun damage or skin cancer, and early symptoms are often mistakenly diagnosed as other diseases, Dr. John DiGiovanna of the NCI said. Patients who vigilantly protect themselves from UV exposure have a significantly decreased incidence of skin cancer, Kraemer said.

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