Researchers at Lund University have successfully identified and mapped out the relationship between the risk of melanoma and the genes associated with red hair.
“In our study we have found that genes related to the number of birthmarks are also related to the risk of melanoma,” professor Håkan Olsson, senior doctor at the oncology department of the Lund University Hospital, said in a statement.
According to the international research group, the relationship between melanoma and the genes associated with red hair and freckles has proved to be even stronger than expected.
The study included 10,000 people, of which 400 are in southern Sweden. Researchers compared individuals who have been diagnosed with melanoma with those who do not suffer from the disease. They hope to be able to take the study further and take both lifestyle factors and genetic information into account to gain a better understanding of the causes behind the disease.
Statistics show that malignant melanoma affects about 2,000 people in Sweden every year. Although it accounts for just 5% of all diagnosed skin cancers, it is responsible for three quarters of skin cancer-related deaths. The number of new cases in Sweden and the Nordic countries are among the highest in the world when size of the population is taken into account.
Last year, researchers at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg also discovered major differences in the number of skin cancer cases recorded in Sweden’s coastal areas in comparison to inland counties, and as one travels from north to south.
Skin cancer is more than twice as common in Skåne, Sweden’s southernmost country, than in the far northern county of Norrbotten, which has 50 percent less total UV radiation than Skåne.
Every year, more than 48,000 people in the world die of malignant melanoma. The number affected by the disease increases by approximately 3 percent annually.