Here are some recent skin cancer headlines:
If your kids are very light skinned (not redheads) and they tan, they are at higher risk for developing more nevi (birthmarks, moles, colored skin spots) than kids who don't tan. Why is this of concern? Well the number and size of nevi are used for determining the risk of developing melanoma. And in fact, numerous benign or atypical nevi are considered a strong risk factor for melanoma. Researchers have concluded that UV tanning in non-redhead children with the lightest skin pigmentation promotes nevus development. If this describes your child - avoid this risk by making sure they always use sun block and reapply it during the day.
The National Institute of Health has identified a new group of genetic mutations that are involved in melanoma. Some of the newly identified mutations were found in nearly 20% or melanoma cases. Better yet, there is a drug approved for certain types of breast cancer that target this gene. The PTK family of genes contains many genes that when mutated, promote a variety of cancers (including certain breast cancers, melanoma). Research will now continue to identify more drugs that directly battle these genetic mutations.
For a largely unknown reason, melanoma is much more common among women than men under age 40. Between ages 40 to 50, the incidence is pretty similar for both groups. Over age 50, the incidence of melanoma skews to men. Researchers have recently reported that a specific genetic mutation leads to a nearly four-fold increase of melanoma in women under age 50. The gene is called MDM2 and its activity is associated with estrogen, hence the disparity between men and women's incidence of melanoma in the below 50 age group. The gene's risk impact may be even more profound than blistering sunburns, freckles and even a family history of melanoma. If scientists could develop a genetic test to identify this specific gene mutation, then many pre-menopausal (younger) women would be aware of their risk. That awareness could lead to close scrutiny, frequent skin evaluations by a dermatologist and early intervention and treatment, which is crucial to a positive outcome in this deadly disease. Drugs could also be developed to target this gene mutation. More than 62,000 people get diagnosed with melanoma yearly and over 8,000 patients die yearly.
Published On: February 24, 2010