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Skin Cancer Can Be Inherited

 Two new studies suggest that skin cancer can be inhereited.

One study found that having an identical twin with melanoma increased a person’s own risk of developing the disease much more than having a fraternal twin with this type of skin cancer.  The other study revealed that having a parent or sibling with one of several different types of non-melanoma skin cancer increased risk as well.

Having an identical twin with melanoma increased a person’s own risk of the disease nearly 10-fold, while melanoma associated with having a non-identical twin with the disease was roughly doubled. 

Prior studies have suggested melanoma and other skin cancers run in families.  But medical experts note it has been difficult to separate the difference between the influence of genes and those caused by other environmental conditions.  Some 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year according to the American Association for Critical Illness Insurance. 

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia looked at twin pairs in which at least one sibling had been diagnosed with melanoma.  After looking at hundreds of candidates, the researchers found that in four of the 27 identical twin pairs, both had melanoma, while three of the 98 fraternal twin pairs had both been diagnosed with the deadly skin cancer. 

In the second study conducted at the University of California Los Angeles, researchers looked at the Swedish Family-Cancer Database to gauge the risk for several types of skin cancer among siblings and children of people diagnosed with these diseases.

They found that people with a sibling or parent diagnosed with some types of skin cancer were more likely to develop skin cancers of various types, not just the ones their relatives had. When tumors occurred at parts of the body more likely to have been exposed to the sun (such as the face, compared to the torso), the familial risk was stronger.  The findings were reported in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, September 2009.

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