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Aggressive forms of skin cancer

A Dundee-based scientist involved in skin cancer research says her work would not have been possible without financial backing from a Fife-based charity.

For the past three years, Dr Charlotte Proby Clinical Reader in Dermatology at Dundee University's School of Medicine has been using her £165,752 grant from the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) to investigate more aggressive forms of skin cancer.

She is confident that what she and her team have discovered is important in the fight against this very common cancer and that her research would not have been possible without AICR's backing. “That has been fundamental to our investigations,” she emphasised. “It just would not have happened without the money from AICR.

“We have established that there's a particular gene, called PTPRD, that seems to be associated with the more aggressive forms of skin cancer, that is cancers that spread to other parts of the body and can kill. We've been studying this gene which may well prove to be important for identifying and treating aggressive skin cancers in the future.”

Dr Proby says Tayside is a UK “hot spot” for skin cancer along with the south coast of England and the Scottish Borders.

While acknowledging that the high incidence of skin cancer locally could result from better recording of skin cancers in Dundee than elsewhere, she also points out that a number of other factors, such as the east coast's long hours of sunshine - causing more exposure to harmful UV rays – and the use of sunbeds, are also important.

“Over the past 30 years, skin cancers in Tayside have increased fourfold,” she explained. “Fair-skinned Celts, with red or fair hair, blue eyes and freckles are much more susceptible to UV damage and there is increasing evidence that the use of sunbeds has resulted in more cases of melanoma in young women.  Cheap package holidays to sunny destinations are also to blame.

“Melanoma is now the most common cancer in 15-24 year olds in Scotland and the most common cause of a cancer-related death in young women in their 20s, and still melanoma cases are continuing to rise year on year.  

“There is new data from Iceland, where tanning salons have become very popular with young women since being introduced to almost every high street in the 1990s.  From 1995, Iceland has seen a steep increase in melanomas arising on the backs of young women, whereas before tanning salons were introduced, the melanomas in women would occur on the lower leg and melanomas on the trunk were mostly seen in men.  This is strong evidence that there is a link between skin cancer and sunbed use,”

By funding only the best science, we ensure that we have the highest chance of making significant progress.  Applications for funding are peer reviewed by our Scientific Advisory Committee and many are also sent to two experts in the field for external review.



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