Melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer due to its ability to form metastases in vital organs like the brain, liver or lungs. Recent research, published in the prestigious scholarly journal Nature, shows that this invasiveness is due to the extraordinary property of these cancer cells to crawl on the surface of blood vessels to spread throughout the body.
It was long believed that only UVB rays could induce the development of melanoma, but recent research clearly shows that UVA rays also contribute to this cancer. Although less energetic, UVA rays trigger the production of free radicals in the skin and this oxidative stress can support the progression of melanomas.
It is also for this reason that indoor tanning, which uses high doses of UVA, is associated with a very significant increase (75%) in the risk of melanoma. It is therefore very important to avoid excessive exposure to the sun or tanning lamps, because UV rays, whether type A or B, are formidable carcinogens.
From skin to organs crawling
Melanoma has the particularity of being able to spread in the body in the form of metastases which will compromise the function of vital organs and put the life of the affected person in danger. According to a recent study, this invasive nature of melanomas is a consequence of the inflammation of the skin that accompanies sunburn.
When skin cells are damaged by UV rays, they release alarm signals that attract a class of immune cells (neutrophils), which leads to the creation of a highly inflammatory climate. These conditions activate cancer cells and cause them to attach to the surface of blood vessels, which they use as support to ‘crawl’ and achieve travel to other areas of the body.
This new phenomenon, called “metastatic dissemination by extravascular migration”, therefore means that melanomas can travel great distances without even having to enter the bloodstream.
In other words, if sunburn is an important risk factor for melanoma, it is because it promotes the appearance of cancerous cells and at the same time provides them with the optimal conditions for them to spread in the body. whole body.
Protect yourself from UVA and UVB
A little sunlight is essential to produce vitamin D, but 5 to 15 minutes of occasional exposure of the hands, face and arms to the sun, two or three times a week in summer, is more than enough to maintain this vitamin at optimal levels for health.
To reduce the risk of melanoma, it is absolutely necessary to avoid unnecessary exposure to the sun and we recommend the use of sunscreens with a sun protection factor of at least 15 as soon as one is exposed for more than 15 minutes.
Recently, screens that protect against both UVB and UVA have appeared and these products represent a very interesting option for people who have to spend long periods in the sun as part of their activities.
Wu S et al. Long-term ultraviolet flux, other potential risk factors, and skin cancer risk: a cohort study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 23: 1080-9.
Bald T et al. Ultraviolet-radiation induced inflammation promotes angiotropism and metastasis in melanoma. Nature, 507: 109-13.
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