London: The thickened skins on our palms and soles, generally adapted to withstand high pressure and physical stress, may also act as a sign of the cancer of the oesophagus -- the eighth most common cancer in the world -- when they get bigger, researchers say.
The study, led by researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), showed that an inherited form of oesophageal cancer -- called 'Tylosis' -- causes thickening of the palms and soles -- foot callouses/keratoderma -- that is so severe that patients sometimes have to shave off piles of hard skin with a razor.
The gene which is responsible for the disease known as iRHOM2, was found to play an important role in the thickness of the skin of the palms and soles by controlling Keratin -- the most abundant component of the skin.
In addition, mice whose iRHOM2 genes were knocked out had abnormally thin paw skin.
Whereas, humans with increased iRHOM2 had thickened palms and soles with callouses and intriguingly these patients also develop oesophageal cancer.
The findings, published in Nature Communications, could lead to a new target in the treatment of oesophageal cancer and insights into skin conditions such as psoriasis and skin cancer, said Anissa Chikh from QMUL.
The study also explains why the skin on our palms and soles is much thicker than the skin on other parts of our bodies and so uniquely adapted to withstand high pressure and physical stress.