Investigators at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have recently begun a new scientific study of the factors that influence the development of basal cell carcinoma (BCC), a common type of skin cancer.
The research was started because Queensland has the highest incidence of BCC in the country. The team is very curious to learn more about the development of this condition, especially the roles that genetic factors and exposure to sunlight play.
One thing the scientists will be focusing on is determining if BCC that occurs on the head and neck is different from cancers that occur on the trunk. While the former are exposed to sunlight over prolonged periods, the trunk is usually far less exposed.
This could suggest that some genetic factors are at play in the development of BCC as well. The question then becomes where the influence of genes stops. The QUT research group is led by expert Dr. Mohammad Khalesi, from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR).
His purpose is to determine whether or not the root causes of BCC vary depending on the cancer's position on the body. “We know that about a quarter of all BCCs appear on the trunk of the body, areas with no or minimal exposure to the Sun,” he explains.
“We also know that BCC on the trunk generally arise in younger patients and are more common in men than in women. And people with BCC on their trunk are also more likely to have a higher total number of the lesions diagnosed and have multiple BCC at a single time point,” the expert adds.
Thus far, studies conducted on melanoma skin cancers have revealed that indeed different environmental and genetic pathways are involved in cancers that arise on different parts of the body.
“All we know at this point is that BCC is associated with the amount of Sun exposure received, but the role of Sun exposure may differ according to where on the body the BCC arises,” Khalesi says.
“I will also look at patients' acne history because there is some evidence to suggest that acne could be associated with lower risk of BCC,” the investigator goes on to explain.
BCC are not oftentimes fatal, the scientist says. Still, they can lead to facial or bodily disfigurement, especially if they have to be surgically removed. Such operations significantly reduce patients' self-esteem and quality of life, Khalesi concludes.
His investigation is supported by the NHMRC Center for Research Excellence in Sun and Health.