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NYU study finds new risk factor for melanoma in younger women
Date:3/24/2009

NEW YORK, March 24, 2009 Researchers may have found a more potent risk factor for melanoma than blistering sunburns, freckling, or family history of the deadly skin disease. In a new study, scientists at NYU Langone Medical Center report that a genetic variation leads to a nearly four-fold increase of melanoma in women under the age of 50. The new study was released online March 24, 2009, in the journal Clinical Cancer Research and will be published in the April 1, 2009, issue of the journal.

"If this number turns out to be reproducible, it is higher than a lot of the other clinical risk factors that we know, such as blistering sunburns, freckling, and family history," said David Polsky, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of dermatology and director of the Pigmented Lesion Section of the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, and the study's lead author.

"Potentially, we have a genetic test that might identify pre-menopausal women who are at higher risk for melanoma," said Dr. Polsky. "And if that's 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."

Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, was expected last year to strike 62,480 Americans, and kill an estimated 8,420 diagnosed patients, according to the American Cancer Society.

For largely unknown reasons, melanoma is more common among women than men under the age of 40. Between 40 and 50 the incidence is about equal in both sexes, and over the age of 50, melanoma incidence skews markedly toward men. Polsky and his co-authors suspect the difference may be linked to the activity of estrogen, mediated in part by a genetic variant in a gene called MDM2.

When estrogen binds to this gene, it turns on production of MDM2, a potential oncogene (cancer promoting gene) in cells
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Contact: Lorinda Klein
lorindaann.klein@nyumc.org
212-404-3533
NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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