First evidence that obesity gene is risk factor for melanoma

March 4, 2013, Cancer Research UK
First evidence that obesity gene is risk factor for melanoma

The gene most strongly linked to obesity and overeating may also increase the risk of malignant melanoma – the most deadly skin cancer, reveals research published in Nature Genetics.

Cancer Research UK scientists at the University of Leeds showed that people with particular variations in a stretch of DNA within the FTO gene, called intron 8, could be at greater risk of developing melanoma.

Variations in a different part of the FTO gene, called intron 1, are already known to be the most important factor for obesity and overeating. These variants are linked to (BMI) – a measure of a person's shape based on their weight and height. Having a high BMI can increase the risk of various diseases including , , womb (endometrial) cancer and more.

But this research is the first to reveal that the gene affects a disease – melanoma – which isn't linked to obesity and BMI.

The results suggest that FTO has a more wide-ranging role than previously suspected, with different sections of the gene being involved in various diseases.

Study author, Dr Mark Iles, Cancer Research UK scientist at the University of Leeds, said: "This is the first time to our knowledge that this major obesity gene, already linked to multiple illnesses, has been linked to melanoma. This raises the question whether future research will reveal that the gene has a role in even more diseases?

"When scientists have tried to understand how the 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."

The researchers examined tumour samples in more than 13,000 melanoma patients and almost 60,000 unaffected people from around the world.

is the fifth most common cancer in the UK with around 12,800 new cases and around 2,200 deaths each year.

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK's senior science information manager, said: "These are fascinating early findings that, if confirmed in further research, could potentially provide new targets for the development of drugs to treat melanoma.

"Advances in understanding more about the molecules driving skin cancer have already enabled us to develop important new drugs that will make a real difference for patients.

"But 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."

Explore further: Three new gene faults found to increase melanoma risk by 30 percent

More information: Iles, M et al, A variant in FTO shows association with melanoma risk not due to BMI (2013) Nature Genetics. DOI: 10.1038/ng.2571

Related Stories

Three new gene faults found to increase melanoma risk by 30 percent

October 9, 2011
An international team of researchers has discovered the first DNA faults linked to melanoma - the deadliest skin cancer - that are not related to hair, skin or eye colour.

Gene identified in some melanoma linked to increased resistance to treatment

February 19, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London have identified a gene present in some melanoma which appears to make the tumour cells more resistant to treatment, according to research published today in ...

Early results show two drugs may be better than one to treat most deadly skin cancer

February 12, 2013
Adding lung cancer drugs to targeted melanoma treatment could increase survival for certain patients, according to research published in Cancer Discovery today.

Researchers discover link between obesity gene and breast cancer

May 23, 2011
New research aimed to better identify the genetic factors that lead to breast cancer has uncovered a link between the fat mass and obesity associated gene (FTO) and a higher incidence of breast cancer. According to the study ...

Study suggests patients should be screened before receiving vemurafenib

August 14, 2012
Different genetic mistakes driving skin cancer may affect how patients respond to the drug vemurafenib, providing grounds to screen people with melanoma skin cancer before treatment, a new study by Cancer Research UK scientists ...

Recommended for you

Discovery of the 'pioneer' that opens the genome

January 23, 2018
Our genome contains all the information necessary to form a complete human being. This information, encoded in the genome's DNA, stretches over one to two metres long but still manages to squeeze into a cell about 100 times ...

Researchers identify gene responsible for mesenchymal stem cells' stem-ness'

January 22, 2018
Many doctors, researchers and patients are eager to take advantage of the promise of stem cell therapies to heal damaged tissues and replace dysfunctional cells. Hundreds of ongoing clinical trials are currently delivering ...

Genes contribute to biological motion perception and its covariation with autistic traits

January 22, 2018
Humans can readily perceive and recognize the movements of a living creature, based solely on a few point-lights tracking the motion of the major joints. Such exquisite sensitivity to biological motion (BM) signals is essential ...

Peers' genes may help friends stay in school, new study finds

January 18, 2018
While there's scientific evidence to suggest that your genes have something to do with how far you'll go in school, new research by a team from Stanford and elsewhere says the DNA of your classmates also plays a role.

Two new breast cancer genes emerge from Lynch syndrome gene study

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian have identified two new breast cancer genes. Having one of the genes—MSH6 and PMS2—approximately doubles a woman's risk of developing breast ...

A centuries-old math equation used to solve a modern-day genetics challenge

January 18, 2018
Researchers developed a new mathematical tool to validate and improve methods used by medical professionals to interpret results from clinical genetic tests. The work was published this month in Genetics in Medicine.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.