Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer. Also known as skin neoplasm, skin cancer is skin growths with differing causes and varying degrees of malignancy. Skin cancer generally develops in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin), so a tumor can usually be seen which means that it is often possible to detect skin cancers at an early stage. The three most common malignant skin cancers are basal cell cancer (BCC), squamous cell cancer (SCC), and melanoma, each of which is named after the type of skin cell from which it arises.
Ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure is the primary cause of skin cancer. The other causes may include smoking tobacco, chronic non-healing wounds, HPV infections, genetic syndromes, ionizing radiation etc…While sunscreen has been shown to protect against BCC and SCC it may not protect against malignant melanoma. Skin cancer can also be reduced through a number of measures such as avoiding the use of tobacco products, wearing protective clothing (long sleeves and hats) when outdoors, Decreasing indoor tanning and mid day sun exposure and increasing the use of sunscreen.
However, to mark an era of personalized medicine, a new gene-specific drug called Vemurafenib (Zelboraf), has been found to treat the aggressive forms of skin cancer apart from the chemotherapy. The life span of the skin cancer patient gets augmented as the drug effectively reduces the size of the tumor. In almost half of the cancer patients, Vemurafenib (Zelboraf) works efficiently by affecting the genetic mutation in the melanoma tumors. The activity of the gene which is involved in controlling the cell division in melanoma patients gets halted under the impact of Vemurafenib. The name of this gene is BRAF. In the melanoma patients which are in their metastasis stage, this gene becomes permanently switched on and as a result a tumor is formed.
Although Vemurafenib cannot cure the melanoma cancer completely but it can certainly reduce the melanomas better than the chemotherapy and in comparison to the conventional treatment which increases the life span of the patients by nine months, Vemurafenib helps in extending the life tenure of the patients by almost 16 months. In spite of all these benefits, this drug is not free from concerns. The chief among them are its very high price and the ability of the cancer to become resistant to the drug eventually and this needs to be worked upon.