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Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The three major types of skin cancer are the highly curable basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas and the more serious malignant melanoma. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that, during 2004, about 1 million new cases of basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma and about 59,350 new cases of malignant melanoma will be diagnosed. Skin cancer will likely claim the lives of approximately 9,800 Americans in 2004.

Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays appears to be the most important environmental factor involved in the development of skin cancer. When used consistently, sun-protective practices can prevent skin cancer. UV rays from artificial sources of light, such as tanning beds and sunlamps, are as dangerous as those from the sun and should also be avoided. Although both tanning and burning can increase a person’s risk of skin cancer, most Americans do not consistently protect themselves from UV rays. A survey sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that approximately 43% of white children under age 12 had at least one sunburn during the past year.

Who Is at Risk?

Although anyone can develop skin cancer, some people are at particular risk. Risk factors include

bulletLight skin color, hair color, or eye color.
bulletFamily history of skin cancer.
bulletPersonal history of skin cancer.
bulletChronic exposure to the sun.
bulletHistory of sunburns early in life.
bulletCertain types of moles or a large number of moles.
bulletFreckles, which indicate sun sensitivity and sun damage.


Ananova: United Kingdom
Skin cancer 'breakthrough'

Scientists believe they can switch on the natural process that stops cancerous tumors from growing.

Experiments with skin cancer cells show they can be frozen into a permanent state of suspended animation, which stops them multiplying. The cells do not die, but the uncontrolled cell division characteristic of cancer is halted.

Many scientists have investigated the coma-like effect, known as senescene, but the British team is believed to be the first to show it can be re-activated once disabled.

Scientists hope the discovery will lead to new treatments for malignant melanoma reports the Daily Express.


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Skin cancer breakthrough

[Posted: Mon 10/06/2002]

by Deborah Condon

Scientists studying the genetics of cancer have made a major breakthrough, which could lead to a new treatment for the most dangerous type of skin cancer, malignant melanoma.

They have discovered a previously unknown gene mutation, which appears to occur in over two-thirds of malignant skin cancers. The mutation, which is not inherited, is similar to another, which is known to cause a certain type of leukaemia.

In trials, there has already been a high level of success in treating this type of leukaemia, following the use of a drug which blocks the gene mutation.

Sun protection is essential to avoid skin cancer

The scientists, who are based at the Cancer Genome Project in Cambridgeshire, England, are hoping that they will be able to isolate the skin cancer mutation, as this 'may provide new therapeutic opportunities in malignant melanoma'.

However it may be several years before a treatment is available to the public, they added.

The breakthrough is published in an online report from the science journal, 'Nature'.

Ireland currently has the third highest number of cases of malignant melanoma in the EU. It is now the most common cancer amongst Irish women aged 20-29 years.

This type of cancer usually begins as a growing or changing mole, but it can also appear as a new spot. Common sites include the ears, chest, back, legs and arms.

For more information on skin cancer, click on…



Public release date: 26-Nov-2003
[ Print Article | E-mail Article | Close Window ]

Contact: Gemma Bradley
BioMed Central

Skin cancer breakthrough

Gene explains why men are at higher risk of malignant melanoma

Researchers from Germany have identified a gene that is associated with an increased risk of suffering from skin cancer. The research, published this month in Journal of Carcinogenesis, could also explain why men are more likely to suffer from malignant melanoma than women.

Although most people associate melanoma with exposure to UV light, through excessive sunbathing for example, the disease can be inherited – indicating that faulty genes are also partly to blame. Genetic risk factors also affect the likelihood of individuals suffering from non-inherited, or sporadic, melanoma.

To identify these risk factors, researchers from the University Hospital in Tuebingen took blood samples from 450 healthy volunteers, and 500 people who had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma, from which they could extract DNA. In collaboration with Genefinder Technologies Ltd., Munich, Germany and Sequenom Inc., San Diego, USA, the researchers studied the DNA samples, looking for slight differences in the genes between people with melanoma skin cancer and people with no cancers at all. To do this they screened more than 25,000 sites across the whole genome, which are known to vary naturally between different people.

The researchers identified a gene called BRAF that contains several sites of natural variation. Some variants were more likely to be found in people who suffered from melanoma than in those that did not. But, when the data was separated by sex, it appeared that the variants only conferred a higher risk of suffering from melanoma on men who carried them.

At present, men have a 1 in 58 chance, and women a 1 in 82 chance of developing the disease in their lifetime. The researchers write: "BRAF may be one explanation of why males have an increased lifetime incidence of melanoma compared to females".

Until now, the best-known risk factor for melanoma was if you had a mutated copy of the gene CDKN2A. This gene could explain about 25% of the inherited cases of melanoma, which equates to about 1% of the total number of cases.

The risk associated with BRAF is much more significant. The researchers write: "We estimate that BRAF could account for an attributable risk of developing melanoma of approximately 4% in the German population. This risk estimate is much higher than that attributed to CDKN2A."

Dr. Peter Meyer, the managing researcher of this study, said: "It will be exciting to learn more about whether BRAF is also associated with melanoma-risk in other populations with higher melanoma incidences like Australians."

The BRAF gene encodes a protein that activates the growth and multiplication of cells. Recent studies have shown that mutations in BRAF, which cause the protein to become more active, are commonly found in melanomas and moles. The variants that have been identified in this study do not have any effects on the activity of the protein – how they increase the risk of suffering from melanoma is currently unknown.

Professor Claus Garbe, the principal investigator of the project said: "Moles are a major risk factor for the development of malignant melanoma. BRAF mutations occur in the majority of melanomas but also in moles. We are therefore interested in addressing the question of whether carrying certain variants of the BRAF gene could predispose people to having or developing more moles, and thus to an increased risk of developing melanoma"

Dr. Goppala Kovvali, the Editor-in-chief of Journal of Carcinogenesis said: "This article is an important contribution to the field of carcinogenesis. I anticipate that several studies will be undertaken to investigate the BRAF gene in connection with melanoma, especially in the United States and Australia where skin cancer is one of the common cancers."

The incidence of malignant melanoma has rapidly increased in recent years. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease, as once the cancer has spread it is resistant to most available treatments.


This release is based on the following article:
Polymorphisms of the BRAF Gene Predispose Males to Malignant Melanoma Peter Meyer, Consolato Sergi and Claus Garbe Journal of Carcinogenesis 2003, 2:7 http://www.carcinogenesis.com/content/2/1/7.
Published 14 November 2003

For further information about this research please contact Peter Meyer by email at Peter.Meyer@onkogenetik.de or by phone on 49-89-43-57-98-33.

Alternatively, please contact Gemma Bradley by email at press@biomedcentral.com or by phone on 44-20-7323-0323.

Journal of Carcinogenesis (http://www.carcinogenesis.com/home/) is published by BioMed Central (http://www.biomedcentral.com), an independent online publishing house committed to providing immediate free access to peer-reviewed biological and medical research. This commitment is based on the view that open access to research is essential to the rapid and efficient communication of science. BioMed Central currently publishes over 100 open access journals across biology and medicine. In addition to open-access original research, BioMed Central also publishes reviews and other subscription-based content.


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