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Gene Variant Linked to Melanoma Risk

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Tuesday, September 23, 2008 12:05 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Protecting Your Family, Cancer, Skin Cancer, Melanoma, Vitamin D


IMAGE SOURCE: ©Wikimedia Commons/ melanoma on skin/ author: U.S. govt.

A new study shows an association between a gene involved in vitamin D metabolism and the risk of melanoma, according to researchers.

Melanoma is a form of skin cancer. The melanocytes (pigment-producing cells in the skin) in a person who develops melanoma grow uncontrollably. The cancerous growth on the surface of the skin may spread to the rest of the body.

Six out of seven skin cancer deaths are caused by malignant melanoma.

Researchers believe that the varied form of the receptor is unable to bind to vitamin D. Earlier research suggests this binding helps to protect against melanoma.

Vitamin D receptor gene variants have been theorized to affect the risk of developing melanoma, but findings from earlier studies have been inconsistent.

This is the first combined analysis using published data, according to the study which is published in the journal Cancer.

The study involved statistics from six previous studies which included 2,152 patients diagnosed with melanoma and 2,410 patients without known cancer. Researchers examined the influence of five vitamin D receptor gene variations - BsmI, Cdx2, EcoRV, FokI and TaqI, and the risk of skin cancer.

A 30-percent increased risk of developing melanoma was seen in patients with the BsmI variant, accounting for nearly 10 percent of melanoma cases, according to Dr. Simone Mocellin and Dr. Donato Nitti, from the University of Padua in Italy.

The risk of melanoma was not affected by the FokI variant and the influence of the three other variants was less conclusive.

Further research is needed to substantiate the link and researchers call for well-designed, large population based, multi-institutional studies to investigate whether any vitamin D receptor variant is independently associated with melanoma risk.

Researchers deduce that while the effects of the BsmI variant are not entirely known at this time, “the study findings directly support the theory that sun exposure may have anti-melanoma effects through the activation of the vitamin D system.”

The National Cancer Institute estimates 62,480 new melanoma cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2008 and 8,420 will die from the disease.

The study titled, "Variant of Vitamin D Receptor Gene Linked to Melanoma Risk," is published in the November 1 edition of the journal Cancer. #

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