‘Eczema may hold key to skin cancer prevention’

8 May 2014

The way our immune systems react to eczema could offer protection against skin cancer, according to new research from King’s College London.

Scientists at the university discovered that the immune response triggered by the common skin condition reduced the number of tumours in mice as it caused cancerous cells to be expelled from the skin.

Dr Emma Smith, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Understanding more about the biology underpinning eczema and other allergic conditions could potentially lead to new ways to treat cancer by boosting the immune system to fight the disease.” 

The research team genetically modified mice so they would lack three specific molecules that are components on the skin’s natural barrier - mimicking the defects found in people with eczema.

Next, the effects of two chemicals that encourage tumour formation were compared. Scientists then discovered mice without the barrier molecules developed six times fewer tumours, compared to those with normal skin.

These findings suggest that eczema could protect against skin cancer, but further research will need to be conducted to confirm this theory.

Professor Fiona Watt, lead author of the study, said the new study supports the idea that the immune system could play an important role in treating all forms of the disease.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

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