La saison des cancers

L'arrivée de l'été est l'occasion de s'intéresser au coté noir du soleil. Source de toute vie sur Terre, il est aussi cause de cancers. Nous savons aujourd'hui que ses radiations ultraviolettes sont la principale cause de la plupart des cancers de la peau.

Les cancers de la peau, que l'on a longtemps considéré comme d'importance secondaire en matière de santé publique, ont pris l'allure d'une épidémie. On estime qu'aux USA il y a chaque année plus d'un million de nouveaux cas de cancer de la peau, dont 90.000 mélanomes malins. Le mélanome cause 8000 morts par an et les autres formes de cancer de la peau 2000 morts. Le mélanome est aujourd'hui le cancer le plus répandu parmi les femmes âgées de 24 à 35 ans. Ce qui était une maladie qui touchait essentiellement les hommes de plus de cinquante ans frappe maintenant des femmes d'une vingtaine d'années qui développent un cancer des cellules basales ou des cellules squameuses.

Le nombre de cas de cancer de la peau a fait un bond considérable, mais notre connaissance de ses causes également. Depuis une cinquantaine d'années, on suspecte les radiations ultraviolettes (UV) d'en être la cause principale. Des données épidémiologiques australiennes, des études sur les animaux exposés à des sources UV artificielles et l'apparition de cancer de la peau chez des personnes ne pouvant pour des raisons génétiques réparer les dommages causés à l'ADN par les UV en fournissent des preuves indirectes. Des travaux récents montrent le lien de cause à effet au niveau moléculaire et cellulaire entre l'exposition au soleil et les cancers de la peau.

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