Skin cancer study

Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers. For decades, we have known that ultraviolet-radiation from sunlight bombards our skin and has the potential to trigger changes from healthy to cancerous tissue.

A recent study, suggests that more than 25% of a middle-aged person’s skin may have already made the first steps towards becoming cancerous. The study analysed samples from 55- to 73-year-olds and found more than 100 DNA mutations linked to cancer in every 1 sq cm (0.1 sq in) of skin.

The team, at the Sanger Institute, near Cambridge, said the results were “surprising.”

Many of the mutations that culminate in skin cancer are already known, but the aim of the study was to establish when they first started to appear. The researchers analysed excess skin that had been removed from the eyelids of patients. They then analysed the skin’s DNA to discover the very first changes.

The results, published in the journal ‘Science,’ show there were some subtle changes in the way the mutated cells were behaving, they were growing more quickly than other skin cells.

The study’s author stressed, “It drives home the message that these mutations accumulate throughout life, and the best prevention is a lifetime of attention to the damage from sun exposure.”

In commenting on the study’s findings, the British Association of Dermatologists state, “Whilst the body’s immune system can prove quite effective at removing mutated cells, it is important to remember that some cells aren’t removed and mutate into cancers.

Prevention is the first line of defence. Wearing protective clothing, seeking shade and choosing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 are all good sun safety practices.

Although we need some sun, we should avoid sunburn and skin damage especially when the sun is at its strongest by spending time in the shade; covering up and using plenty of sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and four or more stars.

4 Jun, 2015

6 thoughts on “Skin cancer study

  1. It’s really important to use sunscreen, especially in summer when people are out more. I think sometimes people forget to apply or re-apply sunscreen when they are having so much fun in the sun.

    I don’t go into the sun much, but when I know that I am going to spend a lot time in the sun I put on sunscreen. Better to be safe now than sorry later.

  2. I remember someone telling me the only safe tan is no tan; and that was 15 years ago. That advice has certainly been proved spot on.

    Having had two friends with skin cancer, one of whom died I can really resonate with this.

    1. Any form of cancer is unfortunate, but with something like skin cancer that is completely preventable I think it has to be worse, particularly when it’s completely preventable. I agree when they say a safe tan is no tan and that’s what I tend to buy into.

      I think more of us should think about that concept, then perhaps we’d be more careful.

  3. I have just had skin cancer surgery on my scalp. A probable cyst turned into squamous cell carcinoma after many years on my head, during the pandemic.

    It lay deep in my hair, not somewhere you would expect cancer. The incidence of this happening is very low, so it is rare cancer.

    The surgery involved excision and a skin graft from my arm. I am now convalescent and awaiting the outcome of histology.

    1. Hi Stephanie and welcome to the site. Thank you so much for posting your response.

      We know that primarily skin cancer comes from sitting out and being exposed to the sun. The sun is a pet hate of mine. Causes include ultraviolet radiation from the sun and tanning beds. It has become more common in the UK.

      It is avoidable, although continuing to be exposed to the sunny climate in hot countries doesn’t help. I hope you’re convalescing okay and that your test result come back okay too.

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