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New insight could lead to the detection of early cancers

        This is Science Today. Doctors may be able to better detect early cancers thanks to a new study from the University of California, San Francisco. Researchers examined squamous cell carcinomas of the skin to determine the order in which genetic mutations emerge as they evolve into malignant tumors.

Cho:                Understanding which mutations seem to come very, very early in cancers that progress gives us a way to understand when we look and biopsy early lesions which ones we really need to pay attention to and which we may be better off leaving untreated.

Narrator:        Dermatologist Raymond Cho explains that cell damage, including that caused by UV radiation, can effectively disable a very common tumor suppressor gene called p53.

Cho:                Once the function of this gene is lost through mutation, cells are more likely to progress onto becoming cancers. Another thing we noticed later on in the lifetimes of skin cancers was that mutations seem to affect how cells talk directly to cells that are nearby them and by disrupting that kind of communication, the cells become more invasive and start acting in a more malignant way.

Narrator:        For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.