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How Do Moles Become Melanoma?

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A mole inspection

Moles—some people have a few while others have many, but what makes a mole become a melanoma? The scientific community may be one step closer with a recent study that linked the protein p15 to melanoma formation.

In the American Journal of Pathology, John T. Seykora, MD, Ph.D., a professor of dermatology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, led a study that associated decreased levels of the gene p15 with a nevus (a mole comprised of non-cancerous cells) transitioning to a melanoma. In other words, p15 inhibits nevus cell proliferation; therefore, decreased levels lead to an increased chance that a melanoma would develop.

A decreased expression in protein p16 has also been associated with melanoma, but the team believes p15 to be the primary driver cell senescence in nevus cells.

The team stained human nevus and melanoma tissue samples with p15 and p16 antibodies. Staining was evaluated and graded for percentage and intensity to determine an “H score,” which correlates with the level of protein in the cells. This approach could also form the basis of a clinical determination, taking the form of an antibody test for p15 from a patient’s biopsy specimen. RNA was also extracted from 14 nevus and melanoma tissue samples to determine levels of p15 mRNA. The expression of p15 mRNA was significantly increased in melanocytic nevi compared with melanomas as determined by real-time quantitative RT-PCR analysis.

The team of researchers is confident that this new research is a breakthrough for the field of dermatology. It will potentially help doctors determine if a mole has transformed, especially in difficult cases. The team projects completing the research in the next few years.

For skin care professionals in the spa industry that wish to take part in the fight against skin cancer by detecting suspicious moles early, Face & Body Midwest has partnered with the Melanoma Foundation of New England to offer two on-site skin cancer education programs on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23, 2017.

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