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Is Skin Cancer Genetic?

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skin cancer

Cancer is a stepwise process of cells losing control over there rate of division. Cells within your body have multiple checkpoints where the rate of proliferation is kept in check. Genetic mutation is one thing that can lead to malfunction of these checkpoints which then allows the cell to continuously divide with no restriction. This uncontrolled cell growth is what cancer and tumors are. These uncontrollable cells will use up your body's resources like oxygen or nutrients which begins to under serve vital organs. Unfortunately, some individuals can be born with one of their genetic checkpoints already bypassed. Normally it is okay if one is bypassed as there are other checkpoints that act as a fail-safe however if you already have one gone the next mutation you get could result in cancer. Skin cancer is no different and there are some known genetic predispositions and known signs of skin cancer.

P16 mutation

The P16 mutation can cause an increased risk for many cancers including pancreatic cancer, skin cancer, and more. This gene can be acquired throughout your lifetime or can be passed down. The P16 mutation effects a cell cycle regulator rendering it useless. P16 has been shown to be a key factor as a potential cause of familial cases of melanoma. If you are tested and know you have the P16 mutation it is advised that you take extra precautions to reduce your risk of getting cancer. This includes wearing SPF sunscreen, seeking shade during mid-day, and wearing SPF protective clothing. In addition, if you have the P16 mutation it is advised to have routine skin exams performed by a dermatologist as the P16 mutation greatly increases your chances of getting malignant melanoma.


The MC1R gene is what is responsible for red hair and fair skin. While this gene doesn't cause cancer, it can put you at risk for damaging sun exposure which is cancer causative. Those with little to no pigmentation are. At higher risk because they have less melanin than others. Melanin is what causes pigmentation of the skin but is also what protects the skin cells DNA from ultraviolet radiation damage. For most people when you go outside your body will begin producing more melanin to ensure your skin cells are protected. Those with the MC1R gene will produce significantly less melanin which puts them at a slightly greater risk of sun damage. If one has the MC1R gene precautions like applying SPF sunscreen or wearing SPF clothing becomes more important in preventing sun damage and sin cancer.

Other Cancers

Family history of any form of cancer will greatly increase your likelihood of developing cancer within your lifetime. Familial cancers are continuously being studied but even today there are certain patterns of inherited cancers that are poorly understood. The most understood of inheritable predisposition of cancer are the BRCA mutations. These mutations are linked to a higher likelihood of developing breast cancer. One thing that is not discussed much is that the BRCA mutations also increase your risk of developing other forms of cancer which even includes skin cancers.

Skin cancer like any other cancer has a genetic component to it. While it is unfortunate that these predispositions to cancer exist, scientific innovation is continuing to get better. A simple DNA test is able to quickly and efficiently screen for common genetic predispositions to cancer and provide patients with this information. With this information patients and physicians can be more aware of these increased risk factors and ensure that they keep a close eye on their health. This also provides the perfect scenario for patients to do their best to prevent cancers by staying away from carcinogens to prevent the cancer from even being able to develop.