New Hope for Preventing, Diagnosing, and Treating Skin Cancer in 2011

ALTudor Editor
  • It’s unlikely that anyone will remember 2011 for its advances in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer, but considering the groundbreaking discoveries and preventative measures this year, perhaps we should!


    In August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a medication called Zelboraf (vemurafenib), a first-of-its-kind drug for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. Zelboraf works by targeting a gene mutation called BRAF V600E that is present in roughly half the case of this type of lethal skin cancer.  Thus, this treatment was approved by the FDA for people whose metastatic melanoma expresses this type of gene mutation. 

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    In clinical trials, metastatic melanoma patients who took Zelboraf were 63 percent  less likely to die from their skin cancer than those who didn’t take the drug.


    Along with Zelboraf, the FDA also approved a genetic test—the cobas 4800 BRAF V600 Mutation Test—so that doctors can find out if metastatic melanoma sufferers have the gene mutation that the medication targets.


    Just this month, the FDA continued its attention on skin cancer diagnosis and treatment by approving and skin cancer detection device known as MelaFind. This device creates a digital image of suspicious skin growth and then compares them to a database of thousands of scans of melanoma to look for matches in characteristics of the growth.


    The device’s maker, Mela Sciences, reports that this non-invasive test will help doctors decide which skin areas need to be biopsied. And they say the MelaFind can do this when the skin cancer is still its earliest—and most curable—stages.


    In terms of prevention, perhaps 2011’s most important contribution to fighting skin cancer has been the scrutiny and legislation leveled at tanning bed use.  In February, the American Academy of Pediatricians signaled that it would support legislation that would ban the use of tanning beds or other artificial tanning devices for children because of their link to increased skin cancer risk.  And in May, a survey by the American Academy of Dermatology found that despite studies showing that tanning bed use increases skin cancer risk by as much as 75 percent, young women continue to use the devices, often in addition to outdoor tanning.


    One reason for this might be due to studies such as the one published in the medical journal Addiction Biology that suggests using a tanning bed taps into the brain’s “reward center,” a biological side effect of the devices that can actually make them addictive. 


    Studies and evidence such as these led California governor Jerry Brown to ban the use of tanning beds in children and teens aged 18 and younger.  Other states—including llinois, New York, Ohio, and Rhode Island—have considered similar bans on tanning bed use, but they have yet to pass them.


    Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and according to the American Cancer Society say that even melanoma is almost always curable if detected early enough. These new preventative moves against such devices as tanning beds, the less invasive and more accurate diagnostic devices, and the targeted medications and other treatments can offer us all new hope for preventing, fighting, and surviving this disease.


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    Sources:  Medical News Today; U.S. Food and Drug Administration; American Cancer Society; Addiction Biology

Published On: November 08, 2011