Genetic mutation boosts melanoma risk

After a gene sequencing study of nearly 8000 people, the researchers found a variant in the MITF gene, which regulates pigmentation, more than doubles the risk of developing the malignancy.

The variant is more common among people with a higher mole count, darker eye colour and a family history of melanoma, the scientists said, after examining individuals from nearly 400 high-risk families in the UK and Australia.

They estimated about 1% of the population carry the faulty gene and face a higher than average risk of developing the disease.

Researcher Professor Graham Mann, from the Westmead Millennium Institute for Medical Research, Sydney, said more than a dozen genetic mutations were known to play a role in melanoma.

If people carried several different mutations, particularly high-risk ones such as MITF, it could explain why some are more likely to develop melanoma than others.

"We think that some people happen to have

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