In a study conducted at the University of Hawaii, researchers identified specific skin spots that may indicate a person’s heightened risk for developing skin cancer or mesothelioma. These tumors, which look like moles, are found on people who have a mutation in the BAP1 gene. This gene has been associated with a raised risk for a mesothelioma diagnosis.
Leader of the study and renowned mesothelioma researcher Dr. Michele Carbone states, “Identifying this gene as a cause of several cancers can tell us who is at risk in a family before the cancer develops.” It is hoped that this discovery may lead to earlier diagnosis of these diseases and a subsequent raised survival rate.
Scientists believe that the BAP1 gene acts as a tumor suppressor, and when this gene mutates its tumor-fighting ability is compromised. In 2011, Dr. Carbone was part of a research team that concluded that BAP1 gene mutation is more common among mesothelioma patients.
Building on that research, this latest study, published in the Journal of Translational Medicine, has led scientists to conclude that the presence of BAP1 genes can be indicated by the presence of a mole-like tumor known as a melanocytic BAP1-mutated atypical intradermal tumor (MBAIT).
In this study, the researchers analyzed 118 people from seven unrelated families. They separated these subjects into two groups: one that had the gene mutation (63 people), and one that didn’t (55 people). This enabled the researchers to identify definitive relationships between MBAITs, BAP1 gene mutations, and mesothelioma.
The existence of an early indicator of a susceptibility to developing mesothelioma will allow physicians to identify the disease at an earlier and more treatable stage. While a better outcome is not guaranteed by earlier intervention, it does raise the odds in the patient’s favor. Right now, the average mesothelioma life expectancy is only 18 months after diagnosis.