Gauge Your Risk of Melanoma

Scientists continue to amaze.

Researchers at UCSF have found a way to determine a person’s risk of developing skin cancer by studying their skin cells.

It has long been known that skin damage from UV exposure is cumulative. Each sunburn leaves behind permanent damage to skin cells, especially during childhood. How quickly that damage builds can vary greatly from person-to-person.

There is now a way to gauge just how much sun damage you have accumulated since birth.

In a recent study published in Nature, researchers present new methods for probing skin damage to identify mutations.

“It turns out that a multitude of individual cells in so-called normal skin are riddled with mutations associated with melanoma, which are a result of sun exposure,” said A. Hunter Shain, PhD, a member of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The hope is that this finding will lead to determining an estimated baseline melanoma risk for the general population. Individual test results would then be compared to that baseline to personalize cancer screening recommendations.

Keep in mind, this study identifies cumulative UV skin damage which contributes to a higher risk of developing melanoma. When or if an individual gets skin cancer depends on many factors and is different for each person.

If these methods can be made more automated and streamlined, this could become a regular test at your dermatologist’s office. Depending on those test results, your doctor may want to see you more frequently.

To learn more about the study, UCSF has posted a thorough overview on their website.