Aging Increases Susceptibility To Metastatic Skin Cancer, Study Shows

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A recent study from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center highlights the increased vulnerability of older individuals to metastatic skin cancer, elucidating how age-related changes in skin physiology exacerbate the progression and fatality of the disease.

Aging skin leaves individuals susceptible to skin cancer

In a study published in Nature Aging, researchers found that aging skin experiences increased stiffness and decreased elasticity, resulting in elevated levels of the protein ICAM1. This protein is essential for promoting the growth of blood vessels within tumors, aiding in their nutrient supply. Additionally, ICAM1 contributes to the permeability of these blood vessels, enabling cancer cells to escape from the tumor and metastasize to other areas of the body.

Lead researcher of the study and associate director at the Kimmel Cancer Center, Ashani Weeraratna, said that as individuals progress in age, there are notable alterations in the rigidity of their skin. These changes encompass not only physical ramifications but also bear significant signaling implications, potentially resulting in heightened proliferation of new blood vessels or perturbations in blood vessel functionality.

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, poses a significant threat to older adults, with projections suggesting over 200,000 cases in the US in 2024. Research shows that advanced age increases the risk of melanoma recurrence, spread, and mortality compared to younger individuals.

The study investigated age-related changes, focusing on reduced HAPLN1 protein production, which contributes to skin stiffening. HAPLN1 plays a crucial role in maintaining the skin’s elasticity by supporting the extracellular matrix structure. Decreased HAPLN1 levels with age indirectly lead to elevated ICAM1 levels, worsening melanoma outcomes.

ICAM1-inhibiting drugs can be used to treat skin cancer

Researchers revealed promising results in treating melanoma in older mice by using ICAM1-inhibiting drugs. These drugs not only reduced tumor sizes but also prevented metastasis. This discovery paves the way for the development of more precise treatments for elderly melanoma patients.

Findings could be applicable to treating age-related cancers, understanding aging’s impact on wound healing, cardiovascular diseases, and strokes. The study emphasizes importance of angiogenesis in cancer, wound healing, and organ health maintenance.

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