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Genetics and Skin Cancer Facts

written by: DulceCorazon•edited by: Emma Lloyd•updated: 7/13/2010

Understanding how genes normally work inside the body can greatly make us appreciate how the body functions. The following are some interesting genetics and skin cancer facts.

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    In general, cancers can develop due to the combination of genetics and environmental factors. One of the most well-known genetics and skin cancer facts is that environmental factors often play a role in skin cancer. The exposure of the skin to radiation often damages skin cells. The body however, is usually capable of repairing certain damages brought about by a multitude of environmental hazards. There is often a delicate balance between processes that promote cell growth and those that keep this growth in check. When these processes become faulty, cell growth increases, thus leading to cancer formation.

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    Patched Gene

    Patched is the name of the gene, located in chromosome 9, that keeps cell growth in check. It is a gene that is activated whenever another gene, hedgehog, initiates cell growth. It is part of a check-and-balance built-in system within the human cells. Patched genes that aren't functioning properly will leave the cell unguarded from excessive growth. Research have shown that inactivation of the patched gene may result in the development of basal cell carcinoma.

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    Hedgehog Gene

    Hedgehog is a gene which also acts in promoting cell growth and activating the patched gene. Hedgehog has a gene product and it is a protein. This protein communicates with other genes in the cell by sending signals to the nucleus, initiating cell growth. Aside from the patched gene, it also activates several other genes. Effectively, hedgehog turns on its own controls system by activating the patched gene. If hedgehog fails to activate the patched gene, the cell will have no means to control its growth.

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    P53 Gene

    The p53 gene's role in the cell cycle is extremely important because it regulates cell replication. When cells replicate, p53 checks if the genes inside the cells are not damaged. If there are damages caused by exposure to UV radiation, the p53 gene either repairs the error or does not permit the affected cells to replicate. When this gene malfunctions, replication of cells with damages or errors may continue, thus leading to cancer formation.

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    Inheriting Malfunctioning Genes

    Another of the most important genetics and skin cancer facts is that it is the genes that keep the development of skin cancer in check, the possibility of passing down cancer vulnerability from one generation to another is quite possible. If a parent passes a damaged or malfunctioning p53 or patched gene to their offspring, the offspring will have an increased chance of developing cancer.

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    Other Skin Cancer Facts

    • The major factor in the development of skin cancer in many individuals is frequent exposure to sunlight.
    • Two of the common skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
    • Aside from exposure to sunlight, therapeutic radiation is also a common cause of skin cancer.
    • Tanning beds also may emit ultraviolte radiation that increases the risk of squamous cell carcinoma.
    • Drinking water contaminated with high levels of arsenic can lead to nonmelanoma skin cancer development.
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    References

    National Cancer Institute: Genetics of Skin Cancer

    Oracle ThinkQuest: Genetics of Skin Cancer