Individuals with certain variants in a gene involved in vitamin D metabolism might be at an increased risk of developing melanoma, according to a new study.
University of Padova researchers in Italy have found that a variant of Bsml gene, involved in vitamin D metabolism, may be linked to skin cancer.
Previous studies have shown that vitamin D in the body has significant protective effects against the development of cancer because it regulates cell growth, cell differentiation and cell death. It exerts its effects by binding to a receptor located within cells.
But owing to the genetic differences in this vitamin D receptor among individuals, investigators believe that different people have different levels of vitamin D activity within their bodies. Therefore, some individuals may naturally be able to achieve more vitamin D-related protection against cancer than others.
During the study, lead researchers Simone Mocellin and Donato Nitti reviewed the existing research investigating the association between common variants in the vitamin D receptor and the risk of melanoma.
Their analysis showed a significant association between melanoma risk and the BsmI gene.
"These findings prompt further investigation on this subject and indirectly support the hypothesis that sun exposure might have an anti-melanoma effect through activation of the vitamin D system," the authors wrote.
The study is reported in the November 1, 2008 issue of Cancer.