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MC1R Variants May Up Melanoma Risk Even Without Sun Exposure

Variant of gene linked to skin pigmentation tied to higher risk

hair in skin

WEDNESDAY, April 6, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Genetics could play a role in the development of melanoma even for skin without extensive sun exposure, according to a study published online April 6 in JAMA Dermatology.

The new study, which took place in Austria, was led by Judith Wendt, M.D., Ph.D., from the Medical University of Vienna. Her team examined variations in the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) gene, which affects skin pigmentation. Wendt's team examined the genes of nearly a thousand patients with melanoma and 800 similar individuals who didn't have the skin cancer. The average age of participants was 59 years, and there were roughly equal numbers of men and women.

The investigators found that 47 percent of those with melanoma reported more than 12 sunburns in their lives, compared to 31 percent of the others, showing that sun exposure is key to the disease. However, the team also found that 41 percent of the melanoma patients had two or more variants of the gene, compared to just 29 percent of the others.

According to the study authors, the findings raise questions about whether people with the gene variations are at higher risk for melanoma, regardless of their sun exposure.

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