London: Scientists claim to have achieved a key breakthrough by uncovering three new faulty genes which can raise a person`s risk of developing the most deadly form of skin cancer by 30 per cent.
It has long been known that people with fair skin, blue or green eyes, blond or red hair, a high number of moles, who burn easily and who have a family history of the disease are all at a significantly higher risk of contracting melanoma.
Now, a team at the University of Leeds claims to have discovered the first DNA faults linked to the deadliest skin cancer, a finding that may pave the way for a test to identify people at melanoma risk and help develop treatments for the potentially fatal disease.
In fact, the scientists say it`s the first time that it they discovered faults in the genes which are not related to one`s hair, skin or eye colour.
For their research, the scientists, together with experts from GenoMEL consortium, scanned the genes in blood samples from almost 3,000 Europeans with melanoma. They compared these with samples taken from the general population.
Previous research has already identified five pigmentation genes and three "mole formation" genes which are all linked to melanoma risk. But, now the scientists, have discovered three new risk genes which are not associated with pigmentation or moles.
The team found that four per cent of the UK population, or around 2.3million people, will carry two copies of all three gene faults, with one copy inherited from each parent.
The average risk of developing melanoma is one in 60, rising to one in 46 if a person has both copies of three gene faults.
"It`s fascinating to discover these new melanoma risk factors and we expect that the results of similar studies under way will reveal even more," lead scientist Professor Tim
Bishop was quoted as saying.
Experts have welcomed the findings published in the `Nature Genetics` journal.
Dr Lesley Walker, Cancer Research UK`s director of cancer information, said: "These intriguing results provide deeper understanding of the causes of melanoma."