Two Genes Associated with Mole Number and Melanoma Risk

Researchers from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia, and collaborators, have shown that variants in two genes (MTAP and PLA2G6) are associated with an increased number of moles and with an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. "These are the first genes found to increase melanoma risk by influencing the number of moles a person has," explained Dr. Nick Hayward, a lead author of the study. "This finding improves our understanding of the genetics of melanoma and therefore the molecular pathways that lead to its development.” He noted that “it has long been known that having a large number of moles is the biggest risk factor. Therefore we predicted we would find genes linking moles and melanoma. We now have conclusive genetic evidence that having a large number of moles increases an individual's risk of developing melanoma." The study found that having an associated variant in one of the two genes increased the risk of melanoma by 25 percent, while having associated variants in both genes doubled the risk. Australia has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world with more than 10,000 new cases and 1,000 people dying from the disease every year. Queensland has the highest incidence of any state in Australia with seven Queenslanders diagnosed with melanoma every day. More than one in 20 Queenslanders is expected to develop melanoma during his or her lifetime. The new research was reported online in Nature Genetics on July 5. [Press release] [Nature Genetics abstract]
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