Researchers have found that two genes that control the appearance of moles can double the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
As part of an international research project, a team of scientists from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research studied the genes of almost 6000 people together with their mole count.
According to QIMR Professor Nick Hayward, the team have discovered two genes that increase melanoma risk by influencing the number of moles a person has.
After conducting a follow-up study on a further 4000 people, it was found that the same two genes also increased the risk of moles developing into melanoma.
"It has long been known that having a large number of moles is the biggest risk factor," the Herald Sun quoted Hayward as saying.
"Therefore we predicted we would find genes linking moles and melanoma. We now have conclusive genetic evidence that having a large number of moles increases an individual's risk of developing melanoma," he added.
His research team have also found that people who carry one of these two gene variants from one parent have a 25 per cent greater chance of developing melanoma.
On the other hand, individuals who carry variants from both parents have double the risk.
Hayward claims that the study may help develop screening techniques and new therapies.
"This finding improves our understanding of the genetics of melanoma and therefore the molecular pathways that lead to its development," he said.
A research article on these findings has been published in the journal Nature Genetics.