Study: Telomere length impacts melanoma risk

Sep 24, 2014, 4:00am

Researchers with Dartmouth College have found that genes controlling telomere length of telomeres influence the risk of melanoma.

Researchers with Dartmouth College have found that genes controlling telomere length of telomeres influence the risk of melanoma.

Investigators from Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Lebanon, New Hampshire, worked with the international research group Melanoma Genetics Consortium to conduct a study of 11,108 melanoma cases and 13,933 control cases from the United States, Australia, Europe and Israel, according to a news release. The research group evaluated seven known or suspected genetic variants in a genome-wide associate study. They found a strong association between telomere length and an increased risk of melanoma.

Using a score representing genetically determined telomere length, researchers found the score was associated with melanoma risk. One in four people predicted to have the longest telomeres have a 30 percent higher risk of melanoma compared to those predicted to have the shortest telomeres.

Researchers are still working to understand why longer telomeres are associated with melanoma, however.

“This research is important because it suggests that abnormal cell life span could play a key role in the development of melanomas and that agents targeting cell proliferation could be valuable for reducing melanoma growth,” Christopher Amos, Ph.D., a study co-author and associate cancer center director for population sciences at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, said in a statement.

Additional studies may allow for the development of more targeted melanoma treatments.

“Learning more about how an individual’s genetic telomere profile influences their risk of developing melanoma may help us,” Mark Iles, Ph.D., School of Medicine at the University of Leeds and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “It will improve our understanding of melanoma biology and gives us a target toward developing potential treatments as well as potentially helping shape advice on what behavioral changes people might make.”

The study findings were published in the October issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.