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Curing Melanoma.

July 31, 2011

So when I woke up and saw this in my newspaper this morning instead of getting all excited and hugging my corn flake bowl I rolled my eyes.

A vaccine for Skin Cancer

This is of course a potentially revolutionary scientific breakthrough that could change if not save the lives of millions and for that I am truly excited but this will not make a dent on the rates of skin cancer if people unplug their brains and that’s what concerns me.

Professor Ian Frazer revolutionised the cervical cancer world when he proved that the human papilloma virus as a major cause of this disease.  After many years of research a vaccine was developed, trialled and rolled out to all young girls as a preventional measure.  So is cervical cancer a thing of the past?  No.  While this is one of the major risk factors it is not the only one. Medicine and our health is not always that simple.

So it turns out that the same may be true with this skin cancer vaccine.  Professor Frazer’s theory is that the HPV (wart) virus becomes embedded into some people’s skin where it then poses as a cancer risk.  If this virus can  be treated, the skin cancer risk can be reduced.  Neat and very, very useful if it works.

But there is a catch.

That burning ball of radiation that we all love to worship is, quite frankly, too much for some of us less melanin endowed individuals. As such, vaccinated or not, we will still burn and damage our precious lily-white assets if we choose to ignore the biological signs that we are cooking ourselves silly.

As you can see, this newspaper chose to run the story about the vaccine next to an interview with two light-skinned, young, sun-loving sisters who were apparently ‘delighted’ by the prospect of a one-off  skin cancer vaccine and who wouldn’t be?  I just hope that should this vaccine become available it will be delivered with a hefty dose of behavioural education to ensure that skin cancer rates do indeed go down instead of up.

Oh and in any case, don’t forget the sunscreen as there are currently no vaccines that prevent sun-induced premature ageing. Oh, well……. there kind of are but that’s no excuse for sloppy sun safety 🙂

Take care, enjoy and watch this space.


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