The health of your nails could say a lot about your overall health. Researchers have now found that a change in the natural color of the nails may signal a person's risk for developing cancers.

According to a study led by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the presence of onychopapilloma, a benign nail abnormality characterized by a white or red-colored band along the length of the nail and nail thickening, could lead to BAP1 tumor predisposition syndrome.

BAP1 tumor predisposition syndrome is a rare-inherited disorder associated with an increased risk of cancerous tumors in the skin, eyes, kidneys, and mesothelium lining the chest and abdomen. It is caused by mutations in the BAP1 gene, which normally acts as a tumor suppressor.

The findings of the study published in Jama Network were made after the team evaluated nail abnormalities in 47 individuals enrolled at the NIH Clinical Center for screening of BAP1 variants. The participants were from 35 families.

"When asked about nail health during a baseline genetic assessment, a very astute patient reported that he had noticed subtle changes in his nails. His comment prompted us to systematically evaluate other participants for nail changes and uncover this new finding," said co-lead author, Alexandra Lebensohn, from the NIH's National Cancer Institute.

Through biopsies, the researchers confirmed the suspicion of Onychopapilloma in the participants. Onychopapilloma typically affects only one nail. However, more than 88% of the participants with BAP 1 tumor disposition syndrome, aged 30 and older, had the condition on multiple nails.

"This finding is rarely seen in the general population, and we believe the presence of nail changes that suggest onychopapillomas on multiple nails should prompt consideration of a diagnosis of BAP1 tumor predisposition syndrome," said a study author, Dr. Edward Cowen.

Based on the study results, the researchers recommend nail screening in patients with a personal or family history of melanoma or other potential BAP1-associated malignancy.

"This discovery is an excellent example of how multidisciplinary teams and natural history studies can reveal insights about rare diseases," said Dr. Raffit Hassan, co-senior author of the study.