Scientists discover how ultraviolet rays cause skin cancer. They could also find a way to prevent skin cancer using a gene target group.
Melanoma is a cancer of the cells of skin pigment, which are called melanocytes. Melanomas account for about 1 percent of all cancers, but are still responsible for most skin-related deaths.
Melanomas may occur everywhere on the skin, but it is likely that they will develop on the chest, also on the legs in the men and women . Other common places for melanomas is the neck and face.
In the United States, about 87,110 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2017, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). They also estimate that about 9,730 people will die of the disease.
Although some of these cases of melanoma originate from existing moles, most come from sources that have yet to be known.
A new study, led by Andrew White, assistant professor of biomedical sciences at Cornell University College in Ithaca, New York, revealed that when melanocyte stem cells accumulate a number of genetic mutations, they become potential cancer cells.
When exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, melanocytes release melanin, dark brown to black pigment that protects the skin from the sun’s rays. But in malocytic stem cells that have reached and exceeded the threshold of genetic mutations, activation by exposure to the sun causes their tumor to grow.
“If you have mutations that were sufficient for melanoma, everything will be fine until you get out on the sum,” says Prof. White. “The irritations that will usually only give you a sleep reaction can, in fact, start melanoma.”
He and his colleagues also discover that they may have identified a way to prevent melanoma caused by mutated stem cells.
The mice with gene sharing remained healthy
The researchers assumed that a gene called Hgma2 was expressed in the skin when exposed to UV radiation. When Hgma2 is expressed, it allows the stem cells from melanocytes to shift from where they are at the base of the hair follicles to the surface of the skin, or the epidermis, where they release melanin.
The team used two groups of mice that were designed to have mutations of the melanocytic stem cells to test the role of Hgma2 in the development of melanomas. One group of mice only had mutations, while the other group had mutations, and the Hgma2 gene was deleted.
All mice were given a dose of ultraviolet radiation just high enough to stimulate the “tan response”.
Mice that have stem cell mutations and unchanged Hgma2 gene developed melanomas, while mice with mutations and the erased Hgma2 gene remained healthy.
“We have a real mechanism, with Hgma2, which can be explored in the future and could be a way to prevent melanomas.”
Prof. Andrew White
Although the findings are promising, researchers note that more studies need to be completed to improve our understanding of the Hgma2 gene.