Estimating Skin Cancer Risks

Estimating Skin Cancer Risks | RefinedMD, Los Gatos

Estimating Skin Cancer Risks

Anyone can be diagnosed with skin cancer, but studies show that the combined risk of sun exposure and genetics can dramatically increase the odds of developing this disease. According to a recent report in the American Society of Human Genetics, researchers found that a lifetime of excessive sun exposure and susceptible genes can help doctors predict the risks of skin cancer in patients. The full report was presented at the ASHG’s annual conference in San Diego.

The research was led by Dr. Pierre Fontanillas and his colleagues at 23andMe, Inc. They gathered survey and genetic information from more than 210,000 people—all of European descent. Those with fairer skin were found to have a higher risk of sun damage and skin cancer simply because they don’t have added melanin for protection. (However, those of African descent or with more melanin can certainly still be diagnosed with skin cancer).

Research on Skin Cancer and Melanoma

Researchers considered three key types of skin cancer that included melanoma (the deadliest of all cancers), basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Studies have shown for years that exposure to UV rays, whether via the sun or a tanning bed, increase cancer risks. So does living in a sunny environment, at high altitudes, and having a lot of moles or a family history of skin cancer.

According to Dr. Fontanillas, “We aimed to validate previously known skin cancer risk factors in a large cohort, add detail to these, and explore potential new ones, and find out whether and how these factors might interact with genetic risk.” No single factor was especially critical by itself, but when a person had multiple factors, the researchers garnered much more information.

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The top-performing models created when considering genetic risk scores included a maximum of 50 genetic variants combined with survey data such as sunbathing amount before the age of 30 and BMI. According to the researchers, the new models have a much better predictive accuracy. However, nothing takes the place of annual skin checks. Schedule yours at RefinedMD today.