Cancer researchers at the University of Leeds have discovered a gene linked to obesity is also an indicator of malignant melanoma risk.
Obesity has long been linked to diseases like type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, hypertension, and heart disease. Study author Dr. Mark Illes 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?”
Other studies of the FTO gene called intron 1 have primarily focused on the its role in metabolism and appetite. This new discovery opens up new possibilities for research in the development of new drugs for the treatment of the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
Researchers studied tumor samples in more than 13,000 melanoma patients and compared genes with almost 60,000 people around the world without the disease. They found that people with particular variations within the stretch of the FTO gene called intron 8 have the greatest risks of developing melanoma.
According to WebMD, the FTO gene was first linked to obesity in 2008 when heavier children were found to have the FTO gene variant. Kids with the variant ate more food, and specifically, they ate more high-calorie food.
The FTO gene is not the only factor in obesity. Nor is it the only factor in risk for melanoma. Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s senior science information manager, advises:
“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.”
The results of the FTO gene study connecting obesity and melanoma were published today in the journal Nature Genetics, and announced by the University of Leads.