Quarter of Skin Cells "On Road to Cancer"
As many as a quarter to a third of a middle-aged person's skin cells have already taken the first steps to developing into cancer, concludes new research at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England.
Researchers say they were surprised to find that skin samples taken from the eyelids of four patients between 55 and 73 years olds contained more than 100 DNA mutations linked to cancer in every 0.1 square inch of skin.
Dr Peter Campbell, the head of cancer genetics at Sanger, told the BBC: "The most surprising thing is just the scale, that a quarter to a third of cells had these cancerous mutations is way higher than we'd expect, but these cells are functioning normally."
Fortunately, it takes multiple cell mutations to turn into a tumor, although no one is sure how many are necessary for that to happen.
Still, the researchers said the results drive home the message that skin cell mutations accumulate as we age and that it's importatnt to do what we can to reduce our exposure to the sun.
An estimated 73,870 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S, Almost 10,000 Americans will die of melanoma in 2015.