Hair, Skin, Eyes, Moles, Family and Genes

Melanoma risks now include three new gene errors

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Do blondes really have more fun? Could be, but not in the sun. Having fair skin and hair bumps up a person's risk of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer.  Scientists have found  that gene errors also increase risks.

Defects in three new genes that have nothing to do with skin type, hair or eye color are now known to increase a person's risk of developing melanoma.

"Use sunscreen and common sense to protect yourself and your children."

Known melanoma risk factors include having blond or red hair; blue or green eyes; fair skin; numerous moles; easily burning in the sun and having a family history of the disease.

Previous studies have shown that five genes having to do with skin pigmentation and three genes that regulate mole formation are also associated with increased melanoma risks.

Cancer researchers examined the genes in blood samples of nearly 3,000 Europeans with melanoma and compared them with the general population.

The three newly identified genes are involved in a number of functions, including narcolepsy (sleep disorder), DNA repair and controlling cell reproduction.

According to the study authors, the average risk of getting melanoma is about one in 60. If someone has two copies of these gene faults, that risk increases to one in 46.

While overexposure to sun increases overall skin cancer risks, this genetic combination may assist in identifying people at high risk of melanoma and other cancers, according to the lead author, Professor Tim Bishop, with the Cancer Research UK centre at the University of Leeds.

Findings from this study are published in October 9, 2011 issue of Nature Genetics.

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Review Date: 
October 10, 2011
Last Updated:
October 10, 2011