Mutant gene boosts melanoma risk

Australian researchers have discovered that about 200,000 Australians carry a mutant gene that increases their melanoma risk.

Researchers have known that the gene MITF controls the growth of melanocytes, which make the skin turn brown after exposure to the sun. The newly discovered mutation causes MITF to work abnormally and increase the chance that sunlight or other causes will lead the melanocyte to become a malignant melanoma.

The mutant gene is more commonly found in people who have many moles and a family history of melanoma. About 4% of Australians develop melanoma sometime in their life, and the MITF mutation boosts this personal risk to about 10%.

Melanoma kills more than 1,200 people in Australia each year, is the most common cancer among people aged 15–44 and the numbers are rising.

Read more at Westmead Millenium Institute for Medical Research