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Eczema could offer protection against skin cancer

A study conducted by King’s College London has found that eczema sufferers are less likely to get skin cancer, and the findings could help treatment against the disease.

Eczema is a dry skin condition which affects around 1 in 5 children and 1 in 12 adults throughout the UK. The condition involves the skin missing elements which help form the natural protective barrier, which then make the skin more prone to drying out, cracking and becoming more easily damaged.

The skin’s natural barrier helps it defend the body against infection and irritants, so when three molecules which make up the skin barrier elements missing in eczema sufferers, were removed in genetically-engineered mice, it replicated the skin defects of eczema.

Researchers exposed the mice with eczema and normal mice to two cancer-causing chemicals, and found that those with the replicated skin condition were up to six times less likely to develop cancerous tumours.

Where both types of mice were equally likely to get cancer, an extreme inflammatory reaction in the mice with the skin defect led to them shedding any potentially cancerous cells from the skin, preventing the disease from growing and spreading. This proves that skin cancer in eczema sufferers is more unlikely due to the skin’s extreme reaction.

Previous studies have linked eczema with cancer but it has been difficult to prove any correlation to a reduced risk of skin cancer because each case of eczema is so different in each person, and there are varying types.

Skin cancer is on the rise across the world, so any research which helps us in this fight against the disease will be well received. If eczema is one example of how severe allergies can be linked to cancer prevention then this opens up new doors for researchers and provides a small comfort for patients suffering from eczema.

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