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Gene Test May ID Younger Women at Risk for Melanoma

Variation found in more than 40% of females under 50 raises odds almost 4-fold

WEDNESDAY, March 25 (HealthDay News) -- A genetic variation that's associated with a nearly fourfold increased risk of melanoma in women under the age of 50 has been identified by researchers at the New York University School of Medicine.

Identification of this variation in a gene called MDM2 could lead to a screening test to identify women at high risk for the deadly skin cancer.

If confirmed in further studies, the increased risk caused by the MDM2 variation "is higher than a lot of the other clinical factors that we know, such as blistering sunburns, freckling, and family history," study author Dr. David Polsky, an associate professor of dermatology and director of the Pigmented Lesion Section of the dermatology department at NYU School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

"Potentially, we have a genetic test that might identify premenopausal women who are at higher risk for melanoma. And if that's not the case, then we might want to have increased surveillance of those patients including more frequent visits to the doctor, more rigorous teaching of skin self-examination, and other preventive steps," he said.

In their study of 227 melanoma patients, Polsky and colleagues found that more than 40 percent of female patients younger than 50 had the MDM2 genetic variation, compared with about 16 percent of female patients older than 50. The difference in frequency of the genetic variation corresponded to a 3.89-fold increased risk of melanoma among women younger than 50, the researchers said.

The study was published online March 24 and was expected to be in the April 1 print issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about melanoma.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: New York University Langone Medical Center, news release, March 24, 2009

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