Skin cancer continues to be a major problem. Each day, there are 9,500 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the United States. As with most types of cancer, there is currently no known cure; however, scientists are constantly uncovering new information about how the disease manifests, and how to treat it. Some of these are insights about the mechanics of the disease, while others are new technologies that can address the disease in new ways.
Newest Skin Cancer Developments
These are some of the most important breakthroughs in the world of skin cancer research:
1. Skin color and melanoma.
Researchers at Rush University recently found that darker skin color doesn’t protect people against melanoma, one of the most severe types of skin cancer. In fact, non-whites have higher melanoma mortality rates. Why? The idea is that darker skin pigments absorb more ultraviolet radiation, which protects deeper skin cells from the type of cellular damage that can cause melanoma. This is partially true; however, exposure to sunlight isn’t the only risk factor for developing melanoma. Because many non-whites believe skin cancer is a problem mostly associated with white populations, they delay diagnosis and/or treatment, and therefore reduce their own chances of
2. A diagnostic patch.
La Roche-Posay, a brand under L’Oreal Group, recently developed a patch that adheres to the skin called, appropriately enough, My UV Patch. The patch covers about one square inch of skin—whichever section of skin you want to monitor—and changes colors with varying UV ray exposure. Since more than 90 percent of all non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by excessive exposure to the sun, this convenient monitoring patch could help consumers better understand their UV exposure and plan accordingly. More advanced patches and personal diagnostic equipment is in the works.
3. New types of melanoma vaccines.
Clinical trials are beginning to evaluate the use of skin cancer “vaccines.” Traditional vaccines use a sample of a dead virus or similar pathogen to teach the immune system how to kill a live version of the same pathogen, giving your immune system the power to ward off those diseases before they affect you. Melanoma vaccines could work similarly, using dead melanoma cells to stimulate the body into destroying live melanoma cells. The main difference is that this vaccine could work in patients who currently have melanoma, rather than being used as a preventative measure.
4. Tumor-attacking nanoparticles.
A research paper in American Chemical Society recently revealed the development of dual-targeting nanoparticles that can fight against skin cancer tumors in the body. Traditional immunotherapy works in either one of two ways. First, it may disable a tumor’s ability to “hide” from the body’s immune system, enabling patients’ bodies to eliminate the cancerous area. Second, it may recruit the body’s T-cells to hunt down and destroy cancerous cells. Neither way is entirely reliable, and each come with nasty side effects. These new nanoparticles are capable of using both tactics at once, causing remission in up to 50 percent of test populations of rats with minimal side effects.
5. Faster methods of diagnosis.
Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia have devised a new method of detecting and diagnosing non-metastatic melanomas. Previous efforts partially focused on identifying specific colors of cell groups—but melanomas can differ significantly in hues and shades. Now, researchers have a specialized microscope that can focus light and examine individual melanoma cells. The equipment can even identify younger melanoma cells, resulting from cell division, which tend to be paler and harder to detect. The end result means faster, more accurate diagnoses, which can increase the chances of successful recovery.
Where We Go From Here
Cancer comes in countless varieties and affects each person differently, which is one of the main reasons scientists, unfortunately, agree that there may never be a single “cure” for cancer. However, the more we understand about the disease and the better we’re able to diagnose and treat it, the more lives we can save on a daily basis. In the meantime, make sure to wear your sunscreen, and if you notice an abnormality on your skin, get it checked out right away.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.