A Cancer Council Queensland funded research project has found certain genes can make people susceptible to higher melanoma risks.

The international research project, co-funded by Cancer Council Queensland (CCQ) and led by scientists from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, has discovered mutations in the POT1 gene cause a hereditary form of melanoma.

The scientists found the mutation to account for 40 percent of familial cases of melanoma.

A further 3 percent of cases revealed the mutation deactivated the gene that would otherwise protect chromosomes from damage.

CCQ spokesperson Kim Ryan says the study helps to identify and monitor people who are more susceptible to the cancer.

“We know that many families have a high incidence of melanoma and this gene gives us a better understanding of why,” says Ryan.

“This discovery will allow people in the high risk category for melanoma to hopefully prevent their chances of getting the disease by being extra vigilant about their health and sun safety

She says that the project’s scientists will look at the gene as a potential drug target, which may mean better treatment option for cancer sufferers.

Queensland has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, with 133,000 non-melanoma and 3000 melanoma cases diagnosed each year.

Sun protection is required when the UV Index is 3 and above. In Queensland, the UV Index is 3 and above all year round, so Cancer Council Queensland encourages consistent use of sun protection.

The research was published online on March 31 in Nature Genetics.

More information on the research can be found at www.cancerqld.org.au