Study finds genetic link between melanoma and autoimmune diseases

A new study has found an intriguing link between genetic risks of melanoma and autoimmune diseases.

QIMR Berghofer’s Dr Upekha Liyanage said further research could lead to a treatment for people with either condition.

“This finding does not mean that people with autoimmune diseases are more likely to develop melanoma, but the link we found is very interesting and could turn out to be extremely important,” Dr Liyanage said.

“For example, we might get to a point with further research, where a drug used to treat melanoma might also help people with an autoimmune disease.”

Data from 400,000 people was used in the research which compared 36,000 people with melanoma and those without. The study used data from the United Kingdom and the United States.

QIMR Berghofer Associate Professor Matthew Law said the latest research demonstrates that a person’s genetics play a major role in determining melanoma risk.

“Half the risk of melanoma comes from your genes. Prior to this research, we knew that there were 54 genes associated with melanoma risk. This study confirmed another seven and identified another 12 that require further investigation,” he said.

“While the genetic link is an important step in closing the gap in our knowledge about melanoma and how we might treat the disease, it is vitally important for people to remember that

Prevention is better than cure.”

Melanoma accounts for over 80% of skin cancer deaths and is the second most common cancer in men in Australia. Associate Professor Law said people can take simple steps to reduce their risk of skin cancer.

“Sunscreen, hats, long-sleeved shirts and umbrellas are an important part of the overall strategy to reduce the risk of melanomas.”

A recent study by QIMR Berghofer found that public health programs promoting sun protection strategies could save more than 50,000 lives over 30 years.

The study was published online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

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