We Are Sunshine

HEADLINE STORY: A virus may be linked to some forms of skin cancer

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

AUGUST 4, 2009 — A virus, and not sunshine, may be the root cause for many cases of one of the most common forms of skin cancer, according to Ohio State University research published this week.
2009-08-04-going-viral-copy.jpg“This is indirect evidence that the virus might play a role in causing some cases of squamous cell carcinoma,” Dr. Amanda E. Toland, assistant professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics at Ohio State University told in a story published August 1. Toland’s research was published in the most recent Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

According to the Science Daily article, “The virus was first discovered in patients with Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare, aggressive skin cancer that occurs mainly in the elderly and people with a suppressed immune system. The people in the new study all had a healthy immune system.”

Toland told Science Daily: “Originally it was thought that this virus caused only this rare skin cancer, but our findings indicate that it is a lot more prevalent than we initially thought.”

The results are preliminary, but the finding that a virus may be linked to some forms of skin cancer is similar to research linking the HPV virus to 90 percent of cervical cancer cases in women. Research in recent years has preliminarily linked the HPV virus to squamous cell carcinoma as well.

One theory is that presence of the virus makes an infected individual susceptible to sun damage in ways that those with healthy immune systems are not. Researchers believe that may be why squamous cell carcinoma is much more prevalent in those who are taking immunosuppressive drugs, such as organ transplant recipients.

Squamous cell carcinoma kills about 1,200 in the United States annually, according to the American Cancer Society. According to ACS, “The death rate has dropped about 30% in the past 30 years. Most people who die are elderly. Other people more likely to die of skin cancer are those whose immune system is suppressed, such as those who have received organ transplants.”

To read the ScienceDaily report click here.