An international team of researchers has discovered the first DNA faults linked to melanoma - the deadliest skin cancer - that are not related to hair, skin or eye colour.
Cancer Research UK scientists at the University of Leeds, together with a team from the GenoMEL consortium*, scanned the genes in blood samples from almost 3000 Europeans with melanoma, and compared these with samples taken from the general population. Their findings are published in Nature Genetics today.**
Known risk factors for melanoma include fair skin, blue or green eyes, blond or red hair, a high number of moles, people who burn easily and those who have a family history.
Previous research by these and other scientists identified five pigmentation genes and three 'mole formation' genes, linked to melanoma risk. But the scientists have now discovered three new risk genes not associated with pigmentation or moles***.
Four per cent of the UK population****, around 2.3m people, will carry two copies of all three gene faults (one copy inherited from each parent). The average risk of developing melanoma is about one in 60. This goes up to one in 46 if a person has both copies of all three gene faults.
Lead author, Professor Tim Bishop, based in the Cancer Research UK centre at the University of Leeds, said: "We know that overexposure to UV increases the risk of developing melanoma but this evidence shows that there are new additional genetic faults which can push up the risk further.
"It is fascinating to discover these new melanoma risk factors and we expect that the results of similar studies underway will reveal even more."
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK's director of cancer information, said: "These intriguing results provide deeper understanding of the causes of melanoma and provide a potential new approach to identify people most at risk of developing melanoma and other cancers."
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|Contact: Paula Gould|
University of Leeds