New risk factor for melanoma in women found

March 25th, 2009 - 3:04 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 25 (ANI): Scientists at NYU Langone Medical Center have found that a genetic variation leads to a nearly four-fold increase of melanoma in women under the age of 50.

“If this number turns out to be reproducible, it is higher than a lot of the other clinical risk factors that we know, such as blistering sunburns, freckling, and family history,” said David Polsky, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of dermatology and director of the Pigmented Lesion Section of the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU School of Medicine, and the study’’s lead author.

“Potentially, we have a genetic test that might identify pre-menopausal women who are at higher risk for melanoma.

“And if that’’s the case, then we might want to have increased surveillance of those patients including more frequent visits to the doctor, more rigorous teaching of skin self-examination, and other preventive steps,” Polsky added.

The MDM2 genetic variant appears in the gene’’s promoter, a power switch that determines when the gene is turned on and how many copies are produced within a cell.

This promoter region is normally regulated by p53, a tumour suppressor gene implicated in as many of 50 percent of all cancers. Part of MDM2′’s normal function is to inhibit p53 when its levels get too high in a cell.

If MDM2 is turned on independently of p53, it can keep p53 levels low, reducing the cell’’s protection against turning into a cancer cell.

Scientists have shown that the substitution of a single letter of DNA at a specific point in the MDM2 promoter can significantly ramp up gene production.

The new study evaluated the effects of this natural genetic variation in 227 melanoma patients enrolled in NYU’’s Interdisciplinary Melanoma Cooperative Group between August 2002 and November 2006.

Dr. Polsky and colleagues from NYU School of Medicine recorded each patient’’s MDM2 and p53 genetic variations, as well as age, sex, personal and family history of melanoma, and tumor thickness.

The results showed that more than 40 percent of women diagnosed with melanoma under the age of 50 had the genetic variation in the MDM2 gene promoter. In contrast, only about 16 percent of women diagnosed after the age of 50 had the variation.

The new study was released online March 24, 2009, in the journal Clinical Cancer Research and will be published in the April 1, 2009, issue of the journal. (ANI)

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