Iceland’s deCODE Links Heredity with Skin Cancer Skip to content

Iceland’s deCODE Links Heredity with Skin Cancer

Scientists at Iceland-based biopharmaceutical company deCODE genetics have discovered a gene that increases risk of melanoma and their findings have been published in science journal Nature Genetics.

“A few years ago a gene was found which increases the risk of melanoma among people who live in tropical countries, but it did not prove to have an influence on the number of melanoma cases in Iceland, possibly because the sun has a milder impact here,” said deCODE CEO Kári Stefánsson. Morgunbladid reports.

“Now we have discovered genes that are not as dependent on influence from sunlight in regards to increased risk of melanoma,” Stefánsson explained. “They increase the risk of tumors in Iceland, but more so in summer.”

Stefánsson said the genes in question are also linked to pale skin and a light hair and eye color. “Individuals who are so unlucky to have the worst possible combination of heredity factors can be in up to a 17-fold danger compared to others.”

Stefánsson said the value of the discovery is that an analysis of a person’s genome can calculate the likelihood of developing skin cancer, thus allowing that person to take precautionary methods.

The melanoma gene is now being scanned as part of deCODE’s heredity analysis service deCODEme. “It is preventive medicine,” Stefánsson said, comparing the service with measuring cholesterol levels in blood or breast examination.

“Heredity tests work the same way; measure risk. An individual who is found to be likely to develop skin cancer would as a consequence be more careful about sunlight,” Stefánsson concluded.

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