Gene Associated with UV Resistance Helps Delay Skin Cancer

Deficient copies of gene leaves some patients more susceptible for melanoma.

Over the last 3 decades, melanoma rates have doubled, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention; however, a new study discovered a “sunscreen” gene that could help delay skin cancer.

A study published in Molecular Cell revealed that the UV radiation Resistance Associated Gene is a tumor suppressor for skin cancer.

Researchers gathered data from 340 patients with melanoma who participated in The Cancer Genome Atlas. Additionally, the study included 2 experimental groups with reduced levels of the UV-resistant gene or a mutant copy of the gene in melanoma cells and 50 fly eyes.

The control groups consisted of melanoma cells or fly eyes with normal copies of the UV-resistant gene. A UV shot was administered to cells that carried the normal UV-resistant gene, as well as to the defective genes.

The results of the study showed that cells with the normal gene repaired more than 50% of UV damage in 24 hours, while the defective cells repaired less than 20% of the damaged cells.

“That means when people sunbathe or go tanning, those who have the normal UV-resistant gene can repair most UV-induced DNA burns in a timely manner, whereas those with the defective UV-resistant gene will have more damage left unrepaired,” said senior study author Chengyu Liang. “After daily accumulation, if they sunbathe or go tanning often, these people will have increased risk for developing skin cancers such as melanoma.”

Although exposure to UV rays, consistent trips to the tanning salon, and genetics are factors that play a role in the development of skin cancer, the study revealed an additional factor in skin cancer.

“To our knowledge, the UV-resistant gene does not have any enzymic activity; it’s a supporter or coordinator,” Liang said. “Although it may not be the direct doer, without it, the whole structure collapses.”

Researchers believe this gene could be used as a potential target for drug development.

“Perhaps one day a drug could stimulate the repairing functionality of the UV-resistant gene to ensure swift and effective repair of UV-damaged skin cells,” Liang said. “That would be a good treatment for people who are at high risk of developing skin cancer.”