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The findings of a new study could pinpoint the reason why some people burn while others tan.

The research could help identify a person’s risk of developing melanoma by determining whether their genes are capable of protecting them from sun damage or not.

Over several years, genetic data was collected from 180,000 people in Australia, Britain, the Netherlands and the United States.

“We’ve looked for genes involved in skin tanning, otherwise known as those that respond to the sun,” Associate Professor David Duffy said.

Researchers discovered 14 new genes and found people with European heritage will often tan more darkly after sun exposure.

Associate Professor Duffy says it comes down to the family tree, and those with certain backgrounds are prone to skin cancer.

“A lot of the population have that kind of Celtic background, so they’ve got that paler skin, so more susceptible to ravages of sunlight,” he said.

Now, the researchers hope the newly discovered genes will be able to determine which people are most at risk of getting sunburnt and developing skin cancer as a result.

“They might point to new drugs that could be used for melanoma, so people are less susceptible to being sunburnt,” Associate Professor Duffy said.

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