The ABC/Reuters Health team and a team of researchers have discovered a new gene that may be linked to skin cancer.
The study, published online this week in the journal Nature, shows that the gene may cause more of the skin cancer to form in the future.
It could mean that a person with a mutation in this gene could become a skin cancer risk in the next generation, researchers said.
Scientists identified the gene in the blood and saliva of hundreds of patients.
It turns out that the mutation is in a region of the DNA known as the human papillomavirus (HPV)-16 gene.
It affects how the virus spreads in the body.
The researchers identified that the mutated gene was also associated with skin cancer in a cohort of more than 3,500 people who underwent tests for skin cancer at the Mayo Clinic.
There are about 1,000 new genes that may help make us more susceptible to certain cancers.
But this is the first to show an association with skin.
“This is a very exciting finding, because we have seen so many mutations associated with cancer, so the chance of someone being at risk from a mutation that has the potential to be associated with more aggressive cancers is much higher,” said lead researcher Eric Wojcik, a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics at the University of Minnesota.
“Our findings show that there is a lot of variation in the virus that could be linked with this gene.”
Wojciks team found the mutation in about two-thirds of the people who were tested.
They were not able to determine whether any of the mutations were related to the virus or to the mutations that occurred with other genetic variations.
The virus is also transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, so mutations in the viral genome may also contribute to the risk of skin cancer that occurs in this way.
“We really don’t know what is causing the mutation,” Wojsiks said.
“We are working to figure that out, but we think this is a really exciting finding.”
Wozciks said the researchers found that the people with the mutation had much higher rates of skin cancers in the liver and the pancreas than those without the mutation.
“The mutation has been associated with pancreatic cancer, liver cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer and other cancers, but it is the most important and significant mutation associated with these cancers,” he said.
The mutation in the human HPV-16 gene causes skin cancer through two different routes: by altering how the protein is manufactured in the cells of the immune system.
The researchers also found that it has an effect on the cancer cells in the bone marrow.
Scientists are working on understanding the mechanisms that control how these mutations affect the cells.
Wojkciks and his colleagues hope to use this research to develop new drugs that block the virus and other genetic mutations.
They are also working on a study that could use the findings to study the role of the mutation for people with multiple skin cancers.