Scientists close to finding melanoma gene

In collaboration with the Press Association

Researchers believe they are close to discovering a gene that may help to explain why some people are more at risk of developing melanoma - the deadliest form of skin cancer - than others.

Although exposure to UV rays is the main factor that increases the risk, some people seem to be more prone to the disease than others.

A genome-wide scan by researchers at the Translational Genomic Research Institute (TGen) in Arizona and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) in Australia has now identified a region on chromosome 20 that influences a person's risk of melanoma.

This genetic region was identified during analysis of more than 4,000 DNA samples, half from people with melanoma and half from volunteers without the disease.

Dr Kevin Brown, a researcher at TGen and the study's co-first author, said that the finding was "highly significant" for public health.

Commenting on the findings, which are published in Nature Genetics, he said: "We're closing in on genetic variants which cause 16 per cent of the population to be at nearly double the increased risk of developing the disease."

Dr Stuart MacGregor, of QIMR, added: "The aim of our work is to identify and understand the genetic factors influencing melanoma so we can better predict risk estimates.

"This in turn means people will be better informed and can take the right precautions to avoid developing this increasingly common cancer."