As the United States experiences a continuous increase in cases of melanoma, researchers from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center are beginning a study to determine whether sex hormones affect the risk of the deadly skin cancer.
The researchers have received a $423,500 grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to study the role of balanced sex hormones in DNA repair in human melanocytes. Feng Liu-Smith, PhD, associate professor in the College of Medicine’s departments of Dermatology and Preventive Medicine, is the principal investigator, Tejesh Patel, MD, chair of the Department of Dermatology, and Chi-Yang Chiu, PhD, associate professor of Preventive Medicine, are collaborators on the project.
Melanoma is a type of cancer that occurs in melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment melanin in the skin, hair, and eyes. It appears most often on the skin, including areas not always exposed to sunlight, such as the soles of feet, palms of the hands, inside the mouth, and in the eyes. Studies have found skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and while carcinoma is more common, melanoma is deadlier, claiming the lives of more than 7,000 people in the U.S. every year, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation.
“For other types of skin cancer, like squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma, a simple surgery can be considered curative, but with melanoma, that’s not really the case,” Dr. Liu-Smith said. According to her, novel prevention methods may be needed to decrease the rate of cases and potentially save lives.
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