Skin wounds trigger tumors

Researchers show how stem cells in hair follicles can transform into cancer while helping to heal an injury

Carrie Arnold
Feb 13, 2011
Even small wounds like paper cuts can activate cancer-provoking genes in the skin as it heals, leading to an increased risk of the most commonly diagnosed cancer, according to a study published online today (February 14) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Inactive stem cells (green) reside at the bottom of hair follicles but can be recruited to a wound site to help with the healing process.
Image: Jeremy Reiter and Sonny Wong, UCSF
The work is "pioneering," said Ervin Epstein, a cancer researcher at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute in California, who was not involved in the research. "What could be more important than identifying the cell of origin of the most common of human cancers?" Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that frequently arises from the cells of hair follicles, which contain stem cells that differentiate and divide to replace...
S.Y. Wong and J.F. Reiter, "Wounding mobilizes hair follicle stem cells to form tumors," PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1013098108, 2011.