New DNA Triggers For Melanoma Discovered
October 10, 2011

New DNA Triggers For Melanoma Discovered

Three new chromosomal faults linked to the deadly skin cancer melanoma have been discovered by an international team of researchers, who have published their work in the October 9 edition of the journal Nature Genetics.

According to a press release from the University of Leeds, where Cancer Research UK scientists participated in the study, one of the new DNA faults was found in a region of the MX2 gene that had been linked to narcolepsy.

A second was spotted in a gene that is involved in repairing DNA, thus "preventing cancer-causing mistakes being passed onto daughter cells," while the third fault was detected in the CASP8 gene, which "plays a role in controlling cell spread by triggering automatic cell death," the university said.

As part of the study, the scientists, including representative from the GenoMEL consortium -- an organization funded by the European Commission and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to analyze the genetic and molecular triggers of melanoma -- looked at blood samples from nearly 3,000 Europeans suffering from the deadly form of skin cancer. They then compared the results from those tests with similar samples obtained from members of the general public.

"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," the University of Leeds press release said. "Previous research by these and other scientists identified five pigmentation genes and three 'mole formation' genes, linked to melanoma risk."

According to the researchers, just 4% of the UK population will be carrying copies of all three genetic faults from both parents. Furthermore, the university said that the average risk of coming down with melanoma is 1-in-60, though that increases to 1-in-46 in people who have two copies of all three genetic fault triggers.

"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," Tim Bishop, lead author of the study and a professor at the Cancer Research UK center at the University of Leeds, said in a statement. "It is fascinating to discover these new melanoma risk factors -- and we expect that the results of similar studies underway will reveal even more."

"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," added Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK's director of cancer information. "We hope that research like this will reveal further genetic secrets to help us diagnose and treat the disease."


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