Australian researchers have identified 22 genes that increase the risk of developing melanoma. Norway, like Australia, has the highest skin cancer rates in the world.
The medical research institute QIMR Berghofer in Australia has mapped the genes that will be crucial to how much exposure to sun rays a person can tolerate before skin cancer – melanoma develops. Some genes may be obvious, such as light skin, while others are not.
Professor David Whiteman, a research leader at Berghofer, says data from 15,000 people in the QSkin study, the world’s largest genetic study on skin cancer, has been reviewed to see how genes and sun exposure in combination affect people’s risk of developing cancer.
Not obvious genes
Whiteman says the study shows that people with dark hair and “olive skin” can be just as genetically predisposed to getting melanoma as people with light hair and light skin, it’s just about other genes.
People who are genetically predisposed to get skin cancer do not need much sunlight on the skin to develop the disease.
“Other people, who have a low genetic risk of melanoma, and who may have genes for DNA repair mechanisms and an immune system that gives them an advantage, may still get melanoma, but they must be exposed to sunlight all the time,” Whiteman told The Australian newspaper about the findings of the study.
“This has made it possible for the first time to show that it is not only the obvious genes that matter, there are other genes as well,” he says.
Sharp increase in Norway
Australia is a world leader in skin cancer, with more than 12,000 new people diagnosed with the deadliest skin cancer each year. According to the Cancer Registry (Kreftregisteret), Norway also has some of the highest global rates of melanoma, and the cancer form is also increasing significantly. 2,325 people had melanoma in Norway in 2018, and at the end of 2018, there were 27,315 men and women in Norway who either have or have had melanoma. This is an increase of more than 10,000 in ten years.
For people with high genetic risk, exposure to sunlight is a major contributing factor to the development of cancer, while people with low genetic risk only develop skin cancer after being exposed to sunlight over a lifetime, Berghofer said in a press release.
The results of The QSkin Study are published this week in the British Journal of Dermatology.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today