Melanoma: It’s notorious for its low survival rate. It is considered a skin cancer, but it is really a cancer of pigment cells, which is why it can travel quickly all over the body, including the brain. Once considered a death sentence, advances have been made in recent years to extend the lives of those stricken with it. Early detection is vital. However, it is still one of the most deadly cancers out there. Yet, a very recent study might finally be able to stop it in its tracks.
Exciting new research on melanoma’s underlying causes has uncovered that melanocyte stem cells (MCSCs) might be one of the culprits. MCSCs are found in the dermal layer of the skin and in hair follicles, and are responsible for producing melanocytes, which are responsible for pigmentation of the skin and hair.
Wear That Sunscreen
Recent studies suggest MCSCs produce normal cells as long as they aren’t disturbed, but when subjected to UV-B radiation they can begin to produce cancer cells instead. We’ve long known that protecting yourself from unnecessary sun exposure can significantly reduce your chances of getting skin cancer. Now researchers are a step closer to understanding why --- and they might even have found the molecule responsible for the deadly mutation.
A Ray of Hope
In studying the formation of cells, researchers have identified a protein found in the formation of many other types of cancer in adults called Hmga2. This molecule is now also seen as a factor in melanoma production and is possibly the main factor in what upsets those MCSCs. In mice, suppression of the Hmga2 protein suppressed melanoma formation. While these new tests have still only been conducted on mice, researchers are hopeful that their recent discovery will shed new light on human melanomas as well.
By unlocking the cause, researchers might have a shot at understanding how to finally prevent and treat this deadly cancer. Can you imagine the possibilities?