It has been found that skin cancer could actually be caused as a result of a defect in just a single gene. The finding has been reported after scientists have worked towards identifying important skin cancer genes using gene chip array technology.
The technology allows scientists to look at thousands of genes at once, helping to pinpoint the role played by individual ones in much greater detail. There are over 200 different types of cancer and each one is caused by a handful of key genetic changes.
The researchers used the gene chip array technology, which employs a microscope to analyse a specialised slide capable of containing thousands of genes, to identify the key role played by a gene called patched.
This new gene testing technology could enable identification of all such genes following which research can be directed towards developing treatments aimed at the actual cause of the cancers.
The technique is currently being used to study tumours of the breast, bladder and prostate and conditions as diverse as HIV and Crohn's disease.
Basal cell carcinoma is a form of non-melanoma skin cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer with more than 60,000 diagnoses a year, although it is often treatable and is responsible for about 500 deaths a year.
It has been found that 70% of basal cell carcinoma tumours - a type of skin cancer - had mutations in the patched gene, leading to the conclusion that it is the most common gene to be mutated in most of the cases.
Unravelling how mutations in patched play a role in causing this common cancer will provide yet further insights into how cancers arise and perhaps have a significant impact on the treatment as well.