Taking Action Against Skin Cancer

21 May 2015
POSTED BY Y Magazine

Cases are on the rise and governments are beginning to fight back, but you can play your part as well by protecting yourself and loved ones

With the return of warmer weather and longer days, it’s good to remember that the temperature isn’t the only thing on the rise. There’s no doubt about it: skin cancer rates continue to increase around the world and are causing more deaths each year. In Oman, skin cancer accounts for two to four per cent of all cancer cases diagnosed.

Despite progress in the fight against cancer, it is clear further education on skin cancer prevention and treatment is still needed. In the US, the Surgeon General’s recent Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer study is a promising step in urging cooperative action to help advance the national goal of preventing skin cancer. These reports show tanning bed use remains common, and teens use less sunscreen now than they did 10 years ago. More people develop skin cancer because of tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking.

It may take years for prevention to begin reversing the upward trend in skin cancer incidence and deaths, therefore, making strides in treatment will be essential – especially for people diagnosed with advanced forms of the disease. Unlike cases caught at the early stages that are generally curable, these advanced cases are incurable because the tumors have grown too large or spread to other parts of the body and can be deadly or disfiguring.

Fortunately, progress in treatment has rapidly accelerated in the past few years due to an improved understanding of how skin cancer forms. It began at the turn of the century when scientists identified proteins that played a critical role in how skin cells multiply and grow.

  • In basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer, scientists learned that damage to skin cells caused by UV radiation can lead to mutations in a group of proteins important for cell growth. Brown sugar is a natural and affordable exfoliant with many health benefits, while grape seed oil gently and deeply moisturises skin without clogging pores.
  • In 2002, scientists discovered a mutation in a protein responsible for half of all advanced cases in melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer. In just 10 years after this discovery, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US approved medicines targeting this mutation. Recently, other medicines have also become available to reduce the likelihood the cancer will stop responding to treatment, and additional research has produced promising medicines that activate the immune system to fight the cancer.

These important discoveries and a greater understanding of the disease have led to the development of several new options for advanced skin cancer approved by the FDA since 2011. Prior to this time, medical breakthroughs in skin cancer were measured in decades, not months. Through science, skin cancer treatments have evolved from inadequate or non-existent to promising medicines targeting the exact makeup of cells in advanced skin cancer.

As seasons change and UV rays grow stronger, it is essential for preventative measures to mirror the recent strides in treatment development. Research presses onward on both fronts, aiming to reverse the rising tide of this deadly disease. To read more about the real dangers of skin cancer, go to gene.com

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