Skin Cancer

What Is The Outlook For Skin Cancer?

There is reason for both concern and optimism. Some scientists are concerned that thinning of Earth’s protective ozone layer may cause more cases of skin cancer. The ozone layer is a band of gas high in the atmosphere. It filters some UV radiation from sunlight. Industrial chemicals, now banned in the United States and some other countries, have caused the layer to become thinner. Thus, more UV rays are reaching the Earth’s surface, and may raise skin cancer risks.

People have become more aware about the importance of early detection and prevention. In addition, there are many new advances in understanding and treating skin cancer.

  • Scientists are getting a better understanding of malignant melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. They have found that some people inherit damaged genes from their parents. Genes do more than make children and parents look somewhat alike. They may make parents and children more likely to get certain diseases. That’s why some diseases are hereditary, or run in families. Scientists have discovered a gene, called the p16 gene, that can predispose to malignant melanomas.
  • New discoveries raise hope for better treatment of malignant melanoma in the years ahead. One of the most promising is gene therapy. It involves replacing an abnormal gene, like p16, with a normal copy. Clinical trials of certain forms of gene therapy already are underway.
  • Advances in genetics research also are leading to better ways of staging melanoma. Staging means finding whether the disease has spread, and how far. It can help doctors pick the right treatment.

Regular staging involves checking lymph node tissue for cancer cells with a microscope. Newly developed “molecular staging” is more sensitive. It can detect melanoma cells not visible in ordinary staging. Molecular staging can spot just one melanoma cell hidden among one million normal cells.

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