This week, Oncology Nurse Advisor reported on a study which found that a genetic defect in a particular hormonal pathway may make people more prone to developing melanoma. This would mean that melanoma susceptibility is based on more than the amount of melanin people have in their skin.
Published in Molecular Cell (2014; doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2013.08.010), the study looked at the role of the melanocortin1 receptor (MC1R), the receptor on melanocytes in the skin that gets called into action following ultraviolet exposure to help the skin lay down more UV-blocking melanin to protect itself. Fair-skinned people are more likely to inherit a defect in this receptor, and as a result, cannot make enough melanin for full protection from UV damage. Since UV from sunlight or tanning beds is a major cause of melanoma, inherited problems in the MC1R means that the skin lacks natural protection by melanin. This leads to more UV light chronically getting through to the sensitive layers of the epidermis, where it can contribute to cancer.
The study showed that MC1R defects can also contribute to the development of melanoma in other ways than just melanin production. MC1R also controls how well melanocytes can repair their DNA from UV damage. Any defect in the signaling of MC1R can cause delays in the body’s ability to clear out existing DNA damage. This can lead to an increased risk in mutations which ultimately causes cancer.
Knowing about a predisposition for melanoma could help many people take extra precautions when being out in the sun. People with an MC1R defect would know to be extra cautious, and could therefore make smarter sun safety decisions.
We at MoleSafe believe that everyone should be taking extra precautions in the sun, but we do believe that knowing about a genetic mutation is certainly a good idea.
What do YOU think? Let us know below!