New study finds that skin injuries do not increase cancer risk

As we age, our skin accumulates more mutations, including those that can lead to cancer. Environmental factors like excessive sun exposure further contribute to this process, making individuals more susceptible to skin cancers. It has been generally believed that simple wounds or surgery can increase the risk of skin cancer by expanding mutated cells even more. However, a recent study published in Nature by a team of researchers from Karolinska Institutet and Yale School of Medicine challenges this notion.

The surprising findings of the study indicate that injuries to the skin do not promote the growth of mutant cells as previously thought. Instead, they actually promote the expansion of healthy cells, which helps to keep the growth of mutated cells in check. Lead author Sara Gallini from Valentina Greco’s lab at Yale School of Medicine stated, “This finding completely changes our way of thinking about cancer initiation and suggests that signals released by an injury might actually counteract rather than promote tumorigenesis.”

The researchers closely observed the behavior of cells in wounded and non-wounded skin and analyzed their molecular signals. They discovered that injuries to the skin activate a signaling cascade that favors the proliferation of healthy cells over mutated cells. This unexpected result provides hope for developing innovative therapeutics that stimulate cell signaling pathways, promoting the selective growth of healthy cells and suppressing the growth of oncogenic cells.

Maria Kasper, an associate professor at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, highlights the significance of these findings for cancer treatment strategies. She suggests that current approaches, which tend to suppress proliferative cells, may inadvertently hinder the natural defenses of mosaic tissue against tumor cells. The study opens up new possibilities for designing therapies that harness the body’s natural mechanisms to combat cancer effectively.

Source: Karolinska Institutet

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