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New Gene Research Shows Potential of Melanoma in Dark-eyed, Easy Tanners
Posted: April 24, 2009
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Previous research has identified more than 50 versions of the MCIR gene, about four of which have been linked to an increased risk for melanoma, Kanetsky said. In the study, about 70% of the healthy participants had some variant of the gene, and nearly 27% had one of the four high-risk variants. Among the participants with melanoma, about 78% had a gene variant and 43% had a high-risk variant.
Those who had dark eyes and an MCIR variant had a about a threefold greater risk of developing melanoma than did those with dark eyes but no variant. Those who did not freckle but who had the high-risk variant had an eightfold increased risk, and those who tanned moderately or deeply after repeated sun exposure had about twice the risk.
"They're finding that in people who are able to tan, who conceivably could have been educated not to worry about the sun, the presence of those variants does confer increased risk of developing melanoma, compared to those who do not have the MCIR variant," said Dr. David Fisher, chief of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital and a dermatology professor at Harvard Medical School.
Having a variation of the MCIR gene has been shown in prior research to be associated with having red hair, freckles and fair skin. It's also been associated with a higher risk of melanoma, even when adjusting for lighter skin tone, lighter hair and lighter eyes, Kanetsky said.
In this study, the MCIR variant in people with red or blond hair did not affect melanoma rates. Researchers are not sure why the MCIR variant didn't seem to boost melanoma risk in the fair-haired group, but they suspect that other biological processes or genes could be at work, causing the increased melanoma risk.