Skin cancer: sunburns do double damage

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Study: sunburns damage the skin twice

Black skin cancer is particularly dangerous because it can build up in vital organs. UV radiation is the most important trigger factor. Bonn scientists have only found that sunburns contribute to the development of the disease through inflammatory processes in the surrounding tissue.

Black skin cancer is particularly dangerous because of colonization Because black skin cancer can form colonies in vital organs such as the lungs, liver or brain, it is particularly dangerous. An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University Hospital and the LIMES Institute at the University of Bonn has now found that sunburns contribute to the development of this malignant disease not only directly through changes in the genetic makeup of pigment cells, but also indirectly through inflammatory processes in the surrounding tissue. A few days ago, the results were published in the journal "Nature".

In 2014, 20,000 people will develop black skin cancer. According to the Robert Koch Institute, around 20,000 people in Germany will develop black skin cancer, also known as malignant melanoma, in 2014. Over 2,500 sufferers will die from daughter tumors in internal organs, the so-called metastases. "The inflammatory reaction of the skin after strong exposure to the sun promotes the early emigration of degenerate pigment cells along vessels into the interior of the body," explained Prof. Dr. Thomas Tüting, Professor of Experimental Dermatology at the University Hospital Bonn and head of the study.

Increased melanoma metastases in the lungs of mice The researchers have developed experimental models in mice that can also be used to study the effects of UV rays in order to understand the formation and early settlement of degenerate pigment cells. "Again and again we observed increased melanoma metastases in the lungs in UV-irradiated mice," explained dermatologist Dr. Evelyn Gaffal. In tissue sections, for example, it was noticed that melanoma cells in inflamed skin often spread to the surface of blood vessels. Using the latest fluorescence and electron microscopy methods, the scientists found a close relationship between melanoma cells, cells of the inner blood vessel walls and immune cells, especially neutrophil granulocytes, and further experiments showed that neutrophil granulocytes play an important role in metastasis. These are attracted by alarm signals which emit UV-damaged cells in the epidermis. The signaling pathways involved could be elucidated with the help of special mouse strains that lack important molecules for the activation of the innate immune system.

Melanoma cell mobility increases in an inflammatory environment Using new experimental methods, the researchers at the LIMES Institute at the University of Bonn observed the interaction between melanoma cells and the cells of the inner blood vessel walls and found that melanoma cells can move particularly effectively on blood vessel surfaces. "The mobility of melanoma cells increases in an inflammatory environment," says Prof. Waldemar Kolanus. It was also possible to clarify how inflammatory messengers stimulate melanoma cells to migrate. Prof. Michael Hölzel from the Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology at the University Hospital Bonn, said: “During the embryonic development, the precursors of pigment cells travel long distances along blood vessels in the body in order to get their right place in the skin. It is precisely these programs that are switched off that are incorrectly reactivated by an ignition. ”

Researchers are hoping for new therapies "Now we may also know why patients with superficially ulcerated melanomas that are infiltrated by neutrophilic granulocytes develop organ metastases particularly often," says Prof. Tüting. The researchers hope to develop new therapies in the future, which will specifically intervene in inflammation signaling cascades and inhibit the migration of melanoma cells to blood vessel surfaces.

Beware of intensive sunbathing Black skin cancer is by far the most dangerous variant of skin cancer and the most frequently fatal skin disease worldwide. When the metastases begin to spread, around 90 percent of the patients die within five years. Excessive solar radiation is one of the most important risk factors for black skin cancer. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), intensive sunbathing outdoors, but especially the use of solariums, should be treated with caution. Like the German Radiation Protection Commission, the WHO rejects cosmetic tanning and advises against general tanning. (ad)

Image: William Veder /

Author and source information

Video: What is sunburn? Cancer Research UK. 2019

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