Though researchers learn more about skin cancer every year, its causes remain numerous and ambiguous, making it hard to predict whether a person will actually develop skin cancer cells in their life time, according to dermatologists in Connecticut.
In a new study, researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found a person’s overall risk for skin cancer involves a wide variety genetic factors including family history, ethnicity, and genetic variations specific to each individual.
Taking these factors into account, the researchers developed more precise method for assessing skin caner risk, which they recently published in journal Genetics.
“We hope this study will ultimately contribute toward a better understanding of the genetics of complex traits and diseases,” said Ana Inés Vázquez, PhD, lead author of the study from UAB’s Department of Biostatistics. “Such an understanding is essential for the development of methods that can be used for early and improved prediction of genetic predisposition to diseases.”
In their study, the researchers used phenotypic and genetic information from more than 5,000 familial participants in a recent Framingham Heart Study to develop various models for assessing skin cancer risk.
The researchers’ most basic risk evaluation model included standard risk factors such as sex, but attached predictive models that were developed by adding information on family history, ethnicity, and data from 41,000 genetic markers across the human genome.
The accuracy of each model was then evaluated, taking into account the best predictions obtained from each model that included all predictive risk factors — the standard risk factors with the additional family history, ethnicity and genetic markers.
“Although there is no doubt that sun exposure increases your risk for skin cancer,” said Mark Johnston, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Genetics , “it isn’t clear how much of a risk it poses to each individual.
Experts in Southern Connecticut dermatology said the new model for assessing skin cancer risk should prove useful to health care providers and public health officials, who play a vital role in educating people about preventing and treating the terminal illness.