Specific inherited genetic differences may increase the risk of eye cancer — uveal melanoma, a rare form of melanoma that arises from pigment cells that determine eye colour, a new study has suggested. Previous clinical data suggested that uveal melanoma is more common in Caucasians and individuals with light eye colouration. However, the genetic mechanisms underlying this cancer’s development were largely unknown. In this new study published in the journal Scientific Reports, the scientists reported the first evidence of a strong association between genes linked to eye colour and development of uveal melanoma and suggested that inherited genetic factors associated with eye and skin pigmentation could increase a person’s risk for uveal melanoma. “Our study suggests that in eye melanoma the pigmentation difference may play a direct cancer-driving role, not related to sunlight protection,” said Mohamed Abdel-Rahman, researcher at the Ohio State University. The researchers analysed samples from more than 270 patients with uveal melanoma. Because there is a known clinical connection between eye melanoma and skin cancer, in this study researchers sought to determine whether there were commonly shared genetic factors between both diseases, as the inherited genetic risk of skin melanoma has been more extensively explored in previous medical literature.

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