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Dr Gareth Bond's latest Cell paper was published with much media attention due to mentioning a possible link between skin colour and testicular cancer risk.

A headshot profile photo of Gareth BondDr Bond and colleagues were researching SNPs in p53 target genes that were associated with cancer. To do this they checked the published databases for SNPs in the human genome that are known to be associated with cancer—some 60,000 possibilities. To see if any of these lay in genetic sequences on which the p53 protein acts, the investigators used data from several lines of healthy and cancerous cells subjected to various p53-activating treatments. 

Using this data they identified 86 SNPs both linked to cancer and “living” in regions to which p53 attaches. Interestingly, they identified a sequence that is an on-switch for a protein known as KIT ligand (KITLG); three previous studies have linked SNPs in this region with testicular cancer. The researchers suggest that
despite the negative consequences, that the genetic variation has been favored by natural selection to become common in light-skinned people as it might aid the tanning of their skin in response to sunlight, protecting it from UV radiation, which can burn and cause cancer.

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