From: Cornell University
Published October 18, 2017 12:33 PM

New Findings Explain How UV Rays Trigger Skin Cancer

Melanoma, a cancer of skin pigment cells called melanocytes, will strike an estimated 87,110 people in the U.S. in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A fraction of those melanomas come from pre-existing moles, but the majority of them come from sources unknown – until now.

Cornell researchers have discovered that when melanocyte stem cells accumulate a sufficient number of genetic mutations, they can become the cells where these cancers originate.

Under normal conditions, ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun activates melanocytes to release melanin, a pigment that protects the skin from the sun’s rays. But if melanocyte stem cells have surpassed a threshold of genetic mutations, a tumor can start to grow when those skin stem cells are activated by sun exposure.

Read more at Cornell University

Image: Fluorescence microscopy reveals melanoma (red, left; black, right) emerging from melanocyte stem cells. (Credit: Hyeongsun Moon and Andrew White, Cornell University)

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