Men more genetically prone to skin cancer, study shows

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As COVID-19 restrictions loosen this summer, Canadians will spend more time outdoors and make the most of the sunshine.

In a new study, researchers found why men may be more genetically prone to develop skin cancer.

They identified three genes on the X chromosome with significant mutations. Females have two X-chromosomes whereas males have an X and a Y chromosome.

Of the three strongly mutated genes on the X-chromosome, only one gene had a specific type of mutation found only in males.

Females can develop other types of mutations in the gene in question, but since they have two X chromosomes (males have one), they have two copies, allowing the second to serve as a backup if the first becomes mutated.

These mutations may help explain why male melanoma patients have a higher incidence and worse survival rates.

The research was conducted by a team from McGill University.

One of the most important risk factors for melanoma skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and indoor tanning.

By shedding light on specific genetic changes caused by UV exposure, advances in gene sequencing techniques have given researchers the ability to dig deeper into the underlying causes of the sex differences in melanoma.

After analyzing genetic mutations in more than a thousand melanoma cases, the researchers have provided some insight behind this mysterious sex bias.

In addition to the role gender plays in different incidence and survival rates, data is beginning to emerge that suggests they may also have different response rates to the latest forms of therapy.

The team is investigating whether the sex difference in mutations he uncovered might help explain the reason.

Deepening the knowledge of the genetics of various melanoma subtypes could also go a long way in providing personalized treatment whereby patients are matched with the therapies that are most likely to treat their specific cancer.

One author of the study is  Professor Ian Watson of McGill’s Goodman Cancer Research Centre (GCRC).

The study is published in Nature Cancer.

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