Melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. Arising from the malignant transformation of melanocytes – the pigment-producing cells of the skin – melanoma is twenty-three times more common among white-skinned individuals than people with darker or more olive skin. More than 132,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with melanoma each year.
Melanocytes have a greater ability to produce free radicals than other skin cells and are particularly vulnerable to oxidative stress. UV radiation can induce DNA damage both directly and indirectly in melanocytes.
If antioxidant defenses are shattered, then this DNA damage can kill off melanocytes or induce malignant transformation. Poorly functioning melanocytes produce an overwhelming number of free radicals that further damage DNA, protein molecules and other cellular components. Alterations in gene expression are also thought to be affected, severely limiting a cell’s ability to repair itself and promoting cancer development.
Researchers from the University of Messina in Italy believe that treatments that target free radical production in combination with current or upcoming gene-based options may increase melanoma survival and hinder its recurrence.
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