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Sun-induced skin cancer: new discovery permits doctors to assess genetic risk
Date:6/2/2010

As people head to the beach this summer, very few if any, really know how likely they are to develop skin cancer from their outdoor fun. That's about to change, thanks to a new discovery by an international team of scientists that makes it possible for doctors to access people's personal risk for skin cancer.

In a new research report appearing online in The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), these researchers describe for the first time the chain of molecular events that increase one's risk of skin cancer. This discovery may lead to new tests that access personal skin cancer risk as well as a new generation of sunscreens that increase the skin's ability to protect itself from the sun's damaging rays.

"Our study heralds the onset of personalized medicine for individuals who carry a change in the MC1R gene," said Zalfa A. Abdel-Malek, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Dermatology at the University of Cincinnati. "The data we have obtained allows us to better predict which individuals will be at risk for skin cancer, as well as potentially why and to what degree. In the future, genetic testing for MC1R gene changes may be clinically available so that individuals can be made aware of the molecular basis of their risk prior to development of cancer."

Abdel-Malek and colleagues found that when a pigmentation gene called the "melanocortin 1 receptor" or MC1R does not function properly, skin cells do not respond to a hormone, called α-MSH, which causes cells to produce dark pigmentation to protect themselves from ultraviolet rays. To make this discovery, the researchers studied 21 human skin cell cultures that express the MC1R gene in different ways. Each culture was studied for expression of genetic changes of MC1R, pigment levels and the ability to respond to α-MSH. The researchers also exposed the cell cultures to ultraviolet rays and measured the a
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Contact: Cody Mooneyhan
cmooneyhan@faseb.org
301-634-7104
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Source:Eurekalert

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