FRIDAY, Aug. 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A major genetic factor that prevents moles from turning into deadly melanoma skin cancer has been pinpointed by researchers.
It's long been known that a mutation in the BRAF gene causes moles to start growing, but it wasn't understood why they stop growing.
"The BRAF mutation that stimulates the initial growth of moles also stimulates the production of a tumor suppressor protein, p15, which ultimately acts as a powerful brake on further cell division," study senior author Dr. Todd Ridky, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, explained in a university news release.
"It's this cell division that ultimately allows the transition from a normal mole into melanoma. When mole cells lose the p15 brake, cells can start dividing again and can progress into cancer," he explained.
The study was published online recently in the journal Cancer Discovery.
The researchers plan to use this new insight to learn more about how melanoma develops and to try to develop new treatments. They'll also study p15's possible roles in other cancers.
The American Cancer Society has more about melanoma.