A new study published online in PNAS shows that small wounds in the skin, like paper cuts, can lead to basal cell carcinoma as the stem cells in hair follicles turn into tumors while helping to heal the injury, reports The Scientist's Carrie Arnold. The stem cells differentiate and divide to replace the hair lost in a skin wound, and if they accumulate DNA mutations during division, they can turn into cancerous growths, Arnold says. The researchers, the University of California, San Francisco's Jeremy Reiter and his postdoc Sunny Wong, took skin biopsies of mice to induce topical injuries and found that the hair follicle stem cells that migrated to the wound to heal it contained expressed high levels of oncogenes. "Sure enough, after 10 weeks, the researchers saw the formation of basal cell carcinoma-like tumors in the injured mice, suggesting that this type of skin cancer could be triggered by an injury and subsequent migration of follicular stem cells," Arnold adds.
Cancer Minute's sister publication Daily Scan has more on the study here.