Uruguayan scientists, doctors develop new approach to skin cancer

By Alejandro Prieto

Montevideo, Sep 30 (EFE). What would see if we used a microscope to examine the skin of a beach-goer basking in the sun?

That question spurred an exchange between hospital dermatologists and scientists with the Montevideo branch of Institut Pasteur which opened the door to a pioneering collaboration in the battle against skin cancer.

Late last year, Dr. Julio Magliano, adjunct professor of dermatology at Clinical Hospital in this capital, told Efe, the collaboration crystallized into the project that Thursday received 5,000 euros ($5,793) from French skincare company Vichy Laboratoires.

The proposal from Uruguay took second place in the Latin America, Africa and Middle East category of the fifth annual Vichy Exposome Grant.

Vichy created the grant to encourage research on the exposome, defined by Dr. Christopher Wild of the World Health Organization as the totality of external factors affecting the human body.

In the case of the skin, those factors range from tobacco smoke to UV radiation, one of Magnano’s colleagues, Dr. Soledad Machado, told Efe.

“We know that skin cancer is the most frequent (cancer) in the human being and it’s a cancer that can often be diagnosed late because examination of the skin is something that we don’t commonly do and there are areas of the skin that we can’t evaluate, the back for example,” she said.

Pasteur researcher Andres Kamaid said that the team decided to look at look at the role of UV radiation in ageing skin as well as in causing cancer at the molecular level with a focus on the bearing that circadian rhythm may have on both of those processes.

“At the molecular level, our skin is not the same during the day as during the night,” he said.

“One of these fundamental changes that occurs has to do with the metabolic changes inside the cells of our skin. We don’t perceive it from just looking, but there are differences at the molecular level,” Kamaid told Efe.

Because the experiments needed to pursue the study cannot be conducted on humans or animals due to the damaging effects of radiation, the team will develop cellular models outside the body, he said.

Magliano cited figures showing that on average, two Uruguayans die of skin cancer every week, and said that some of the rise in both the incidence and mortality of the disease is due to preventable causes.

In that vein, he cautioned people against relying exclusively on sunscreen to protect them.

“Sunscreen is an accessory, what people need to use are physical means, which are fundamental,” the dermatologist said. “Dark-colored clothing, long sleeves, a hat – that must have a wide brim, that covers the ears and leaves the face in shadow.”

Kamaid said that he and the rest of the team take “great pride” in the recognition from Vichy for their effort to meld clinical medicine with basic science.

“It’s a group that generates a bridge between basic research, with the country’s and the region’s only advanced microscopy equipment, and the clinical experience of doctors who are treating patients,” he said.

“We (in Uruguay) don’t yet have very large scientific development in terms in infrastructure, but we do in the value of ideas and the quality of the work we do,” Kamaid said. EFE apf/dr

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