Your skin may offer clues to your risk for developing cancer.
That’s the upshot of new British research that shows cancer-related mutations can be found in one- quarter of skin cells in healthy individuals.
The findings, published in the journal Science
, provide a new way for doctors to identify those more likely to develop skin cancer, which is rising dramatically in the U.S., Medical News Today
By performing genetic tests on 234 skin biopsies from cancer-free individuals, researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in the U.K. found more than 100 cancer-associated mutations in every square centimeter of skin.
Lead researcher Iñigo Martincorena, M.D., said the mutations showed patterns linked to a non-melanoma skin cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma — the second most common form of the disease in the US, striking 700,000 Americans annually.
Dr. Martincorena explained that these mutations are the first in a series of steps that can lead to the development of cancer.
"These first cancer-associated mutations give cells a boost compared to their normal neighbors. They have a burst of growth that increases the pool of cells waiting for the next mutation to push them even further," added study co-author Dr. Peter Campbell.
"We can even see some cells in normal skin that have taken two or three such steps toward cancer. How many of these steps are needed to become fully cancerous? Maybe five, maybe 10, we don't know yet."
"We have learned that most of the genes known to be involved in non-melanoma skin cancer are already frequently mutated in normal skin," Dr. Martincorena told MNT
. "Yet, while these mutations are common in our skin, the chances of a single skin cell having all of the handful of mutations required to develop into a cancer are still low enough to explain why we don't all get cancer."
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