Could Flesh Wounds Lead to Cancer?

scabPhoto: Caitlin Regan

For years, doctors and scientists have realized that wounds can cause basal cell cancers on your skin but didn’t know why (and still aren’t sure of the whole process) until now. It all comes down to follicular stem cells – the cells associated with areas that grow hair. They spend most of their time sound asleep.

Basal_cell_carcinoma_histopathology_(1).jpg‎Photo: KGH

If you skin your knees or wound yourself, the cells awaken and rush to the wound area to help heal it. However, much like any unused body part, skin can be damaged when asleep for years and cells can mutate into cancer-causing ones. They might never awaken, however, so no problem unless you did get a wound.

A note of caution at this point: though this research was published, the abstract itself doesn’t mention the methodology. Also, almost all of these tumors occur on sun-exposed skin, so how much correlation there is may still be in doubt.

BasaliomaPhoto: Peter D. Klaus

We know that wounds and cancers can be correlated and this study shows one reason. But the amount of times it occurs is still unknown and likely to be very small. So don’t panic if you skin your knee!

One reason I decided to write this is because of having seen it written elsewhere without any caution, which might lead to unnecessary panic for those not familiar with studies and how to read them. However, if you notice a change in your skin, always always ask a doctor to check it out. These are rarely deadly tumors; they just need to be removed.

Sources: 1, 2