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Skin Cancer May Be Genetic

Posted: October 13, 2009

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This suggests, the researchers say, that some of the increased melanoma risk can be attributed to genes, in particular interactions between genes. They estimate that genes account for about half of the differences in risk between two people.

In the second study, Shehnaz K. Hussain of the University of California Los Angeles and colleagues looked at the Swedish Family-Cancer Database to gauge the risk for several types of skin cancer among siblings and children of people diagnosed with these diseases.

They found that people with a sibling or parent diagnosed with some types of skin cancer were more likely to develop skin cancers of various types, not just the ones their relatives had. When tumors occurred at parts of the body more likely to have been exposed to the sun—such as the face, compared to the torso—the familial risk was stronger.

Based on the findings, Hussain and colleagues conclude, a person's family history can be used to gauge their own skin cancer risk, and genetic studies could be a useful way to identify potential targets for treating or preventing the disease.

Source: Journal of Investigative Dermatology, September 2009.