DNA component linked to obesity now associated with melanoma

Emerging research may prove that DNA delineation within the FTO gene along the intron 8 region — an area predominantly tethered to obesity and appetite disposition — could put certain patients at greater risk for melanoma.

University of Leeds scientists examined melanoma tumor samples from melanoma patients alongside the DNA of 60,000 unaffected people worldwide.

"This is the first time to our knowledge that this major obesity gene, already linked to multiple illnesses, has been linked to melanoma,” said study author Mark Iles, MD, of the Cancer Research UK and the University of Leeds, in a news release. “This raises the question whether future research will reveal that the gene has a role in even more diseases?”

Iles added: "When scientists have tried to understand how the FTO gene behaves, so far they've only examined its role in metabolism and appetite. But it's now clear we don't know enough about what this intriguing gene does. This reveals a hot new lead for research into both obesity-related illnesses and skin cancer."

With 76,690 new cases of melanoma expected in the US this year and some 9,480 deaths, the origins of the condition remain of the utmost importance.

"These are fascinating early findings that, if confirmed in further research, could potentially provide new targets for the development of drugs to treat melanoma,” said Julie Sharp, MD, Cancer Research UK's senior science information manager. “Advances in understanding more about the molecules driving skin cancer have already enabled us to develop important new skin cancer drugs that will make a real difference for patients.”

Regardless of the promising nature of the findings, it’s still important for physicians and patients to remember preventative steps assured in their effectiveness.

"It doesn't detract from the importance of reducing your risk of the disease by enjoying the sun safely on winter breaks abroad and avoiding sunbeds. Getting a painful sunburn just once every two years can triple the risk of melanoma,” Sharp concluded.

The study was published in the latest issue of Nature Genetics.