The melanoma mystery remains

Testing for two gene mutations commonly associated with melanoma is not a good way to determine whether a mole could turn cancerous, Queensland researchers say.

In their analysis of samples from participants in the Brisbane Naevus Morphology Study, they found 85% had a mutation on the gene known as BRAF and the remaining had a mutation on the NRAS gene.

The authors note that when either of these genes mutated it activates the signalling pathway known as MAPK, which is commonly active in melanomas.

However, given that none of the samples were melanomas, they say it’s clear additional genomic events need to occur before a mole becomes malignant.

Their work is published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Until scientists are better able to predict which naevi are likely to become dangerous, current diagnostic practices still stand, says lead author Dr Mitchell Stark, an NHMRC Early Career Fellow and one of Australia’s leading melanoma investigators.

“The number of naevi a person has is the strongest predictor of risk for melanoma,” he says.

Other risk characteristics include fair skin or light-coloured hair or eyes.

You can access the study here.