As the first rays of Spring sunshine make themselves felt across Britain after the second coldest March in a century, many people will be looking forward to enjoying a gloriously hot summer.

However, today we are also acutely aware of exposure to solar UV radiation and the high risk of developing skin cancer. In 2010, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported annual worldwide figures of between two and three million non-melanoma skin cancers and around 132,000 malignant melanomas.

Warning sign…

However, whenever there is the development of any skin growth, the outcome may be benign, such as a mole or result in a malignant melanoma. New research suggests that a benign skin tumour could also be a warning sign for potential development of the fatal and incurable asbestosis disease of malignant mesothelioma cancer.

The long search for a cure to mesothelioma has also involved medical research teams around the world in trying to discover why certain individuals who have been exposed to asbestos do not develop asbestosis symptoms while countless thousands of others fall victim to the deadly disease.

The influence of a genetic component to an individual’s susceptibility to mesothelioma has been the subject of previous research. However, in the last few years, medical investigations have turned their attention to a specific enzyme involved with the regulation of multiple cellular functions including life cycle and cell death, differentiation, metabolism and response to DNA damage.

Mole-like skin tumour…

Previously, it had been found that mutations, which appear on a specific gene have been associated with several different types of cancer, notably the early formation of a benign, mole-like skin tumour. New findings suggest that the same patients who develop benign skin tumours “appear to be more likely to develop mesothelioma, certain types of melanoma, and possibly other cancers later in life.”

In a 2012 study, it was discovered that mole-like growths were much more commonly found in around a half of those individuals known to possess the mutation in a study group of 118 people from seven unrelated families. The researchers also suggest that the presence of the skin growths could act as a potential “visual marker” and help in the identification of patients at risk of developing mesothelioma and other cancers.

Recognising symptoms…

Recognising the symptoms of mesothelioma and catching the disease early enough has always been vital to helping with asbestosis treatments. From the initial exposure period when fibres are inhaled to the onset of early symptoms is known to develop in a period lasting between 10 and 50 years or more.

In recent years, improved asbestos awareness has helped many victims to recognise that they may have been exposed to asbestos at one or more former workplaces many decades previously.

If exposure is suspected, it is vital to seek asbestos advice and undertake a thorough medical examination, where a diagnosis will typically includes lung function, PET scan imaging studies, biomarkers and a detailed work history. Future tests for detecting mesothelioma may also include analysis of mole-like, skin growth mutations.