Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DNA mutations plus sun damage equals trouble

Genes linked to red hair and pale skin increase your risk of melanoma, a new study says

News reports, I've found, sometimes merely confirm what conventional and folk wisdom have known forever.

Case in point — the recent UPI story (based on one in HealthDay News) that carried the headline "Genes tied to red hair, pale skin greatly raise melanoma risk."

I could have told you that. 

Because I've been living for a long time with a woman with red hair and pale skin and freckles.
Nancy Fox — and her long red hair.

My wife, Nancy Fox, successfully had a melanoma on her arm removed — after she'd conquered breast cancer. And neither of us can count how many pre-cancerous growths she's had dermatologists cut out, burn off or otherwise remove.

But what I hadn't realize was that, at least according to the story, having the troublesome gene mutation — known as MC1R— "is roughly equivalent to the person spending an extra 21 years in the sun."

The British study, which examined more than 400 people and whose findings were published in Nature Communications, determined that "there were 42 percent more mutations linked to sun damage in the tumors of those carrying the red hair gene variant than in those without that DNA."

It showed, moreover, that "skin cancer isn't just about being more vulnerable to the sun's harmful UV rays. Carrying the MC1R gene variant raises the number of mutations triggered by sun exposure, the researchers explained, but it also raises the level of non-sun-linked mutations within tumors."

I, not incidentally, based my VitalityPress book, "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," which is aimed at male caregivers, on my wife's courage in battling her cancers. 

Unfortunately, what she's still faced with — constantly — is having doctors take off pre-cancerous growths from her face, arms and other body parts. All because she has red hair and pale skin and didn't protect herself from the sun when she was young.

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