Scientists have discovered a lead that could explain how melanoma is triggered by UV rays. A gene in the skin called Hgma2 goes through gene expression when it is exposed to UV rays. Gene expression is when a gene uses information to synthesis a gene product, usually some type of protein. However, with Hgma2, it causes melanocyte stem cells (skin pigment cells where melanoma develops) to shift to the surface of the skin from their original positioning at the base of the hair follicles. Once the melanocyte stem cells have reached their limit of genetic mutation, any excess exposure will cause the cells to develop a tumor.

Testing was done on mice to confirm Hgma2’s involvement in the outcome of cancer development. All the mice had the mutations to the melanocyte stem cells but certain mice had their Hgma2 gene deleted. After being exposed to a light amount of UV, the mice with the Hgma2 genes intact developed melanoma while the mice without the gene did not. Much more testing is needed but this discovery holds promise to further understand melanoma.

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