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.