September 15, 2008

Gene Mutation Linked To Higher Skin Cancer Risk

Researchers reported on Monday that a certain gene variant may be linked to the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Scientists from the Portuguese Institute of Oncology in Porto presented their study at the Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology in Stockholm.

They discovered that people who carried a gene named cyclin D1 had an 81 percent higher risk of developing skin cancer than those who did not carry the gene.

Cyclin D1 is part of the mechanism that speeds up or slows down cell growth. Previous research has linked changes in the way it functions to several tumors, including skin and breast cancer.

"Our results indicated that the proportion of melanoma cases attributable to this genetic alteration is 14 percent," Raquel Catarino of the Portuguese Institute of Oncology in Porto, said in a statement.

The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 60,000 people each year die from excessive exposure to ultraviolet light, mostly from malignant melanoma.

Catarino and colleagues analyzed the blood of 1,053 volunteers, including 161 people with melanoma and 892 healthy men and women. They found that people carrying two copies of the variant were 80 percent more likely to develop melanoma.

"Once the genetic factors involved in melanoma...are identified and their importance established and validated, the individual's genetic profile could help clinical decisions," Catarino said.