Preventing Skin Cancer

PTEN repairs DNA damage caused by UVB radiation

(RxWiki News) Non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common form of cancer in the United States. Scientists may have found a way to repair the damage sun exposure causes before cancer develops.

A protein that suppresses the formation of tumors - PTEN - has been identified as playing a role in removing DNA damage caused by exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sunlight. UVB radiation causes DNA damage, which in turn can lead to non-melanoma skin cancer.

"Use a broad spectrum sunscreen of 15 or higher to block all UV rays."

Yu-Ying He, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, found that reduced levels of PTEN led to more UVB-related skin cancers. The study's lead author said these findings may mean this skin cancer could be prevented by increasing the PTEN tumor-suppressing activity. She suggests nutritional supplements or pharmaceuticals could be developed to target PTEN.

PTEN was first discovered in 1997 and shown to help genes remain stable and also aid in the repair of cells. Both activities reduce molecules from misfiring, something that leads to cancer and tumor growth.

For this study, He and colleagues exposed skin cells to UVB radiation then examined the rates of DNA repair. Lower levels of PTEN equated to slower DNA repair.

He plans to further study how restoring PTEN levels may lead to cancer prevention.

Findings from this study are published in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

One million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer were diagnosed in the United States last year, accounting for 40 percent of all newly diagnosed cancers.

Review Date: 
July 26, 2011