30 Jun The Current State of Skin Cancer
It’s been 100+ degrees in Arizona for a while now, and with Skin Cancer Awareness Month just behind us it’s time to revisit best practices for protecting your skin from cancer. Spectrum Dermatology is committed to helping you keep your skin healthy and safe with annual “mole checks” and virtual dermatology appointments. There are various types of skin cancer, with melanoma being the deadliest because it is known to spread (or metastasize) to other parts of the body. The more common types of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, aren’t as deadly—especially when caught early. However, all types of skin cancers are preventable.
A lot of research is dedicated to melanoma, which earned its name because this cancer begins in the melanocytes (the cells that give skin its melanin, or color). Unfortunately, even though melanoma is a rarer form of skin cancer its incidence is also increasing around the globe. In 2018, New Zealand and Australia had the most cases of reported melanoma—the United States was 17th in cases around the globe. According to the American Cancer Society, over 100,000 new melanoma diagnoses will be made this year and 6,850 people will die from melanoma.
Israeli researchers have discovered that prior to spreading beyond the skin, melanoma tumors send out “prep” molecules to the inner dermis layer of the skin. These microRNA molecules are in charge of transporting cancer cells. There is current research underway to see if a chemical can be created to interfere with this process. At the same time, researchers are considering studying skin changes from microRNA that might help catch melanoma even earlier.
At Tel Aviv University, researchers are currently working on creating a nano-vaccine for melanoma. There are findings in mouse studies where the nano-vaccine has been effective in stopping melanoma and treating melanoma tumors. Other scientists have discovered that fat cells carry a protein that allows melanoma to turn life-threatening and spread beyond the skin layers. Studies in mice have found that drug therapies can block this protein transfer that happens between fat cells and melanoma cells.
Of course, these are very early findings and we are very far from having a vaccine for melanoma available to humans.
Current Studies Related to Skin Cancer
A molecular biologist at Ariel University is researching what occurs during migration at the nuclear level of melanoma cells, which is a critical part of metastasis. Every cell nucleus holds chromosomes, or genetic materials. During melanoma cell migration, these chromosomes make their way through tissue or blood vessels. However, the researcher found that when “squeezed,” the chromosomes got condensed and this led to easier migration. This is an early stage finding in how interfering with nucleus migration may help stop melanoma in the future.
Immunotherapy has also been considered as a treatment option for melanoma, but has traditionally only been successful in about 40 percent of patients. A recent study that included researchers at Yale School of Medicine found that when fatty acids were slow to metabolize, cancer cells were able to “hide” from the T-cells of the immune system—the cells meant to destroy cancerous cells. This discovery can help doctors select the best patients for immunotherapy, which means patients with a fast fatty acid metabolism. Another consideration is focusing on increasing the patient’s fatty acid metabolism in order to make immunotherapy more effective.
What You Can Do to Stop and Prevent Skin Cancer
If you have a family or personal history of skin cancer, it’s understandable to want to keep pace with the latest research. However, there are also actions you can start taking right now to catch skin cancer early or prevent it altogether. First, apply a broadband sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 to every exposed area of skin whenever you’re in the sun’s rays. This can include when you’re driving or working next to a window. Most people require a minimum of two tablespoons of sunscreen per application.
“Mole checks” are another critical part of skin cancer prevention and treatment. See your dermatologist at least once per year for these checks, and perform your own checks at home once per month following the ABCDEs of skin cancer. Schedule your skin check or consultation today at Spectrum Dermatology by calling (480) 948-8400.