PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — You can’t change your genetic makeup, but it could be playing a big role in whether or not you are at risk of getting cancer.

It’s just a small number of genetic types that have the strongest link to the deadly skin cancer, melanoma.

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In the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, an international team of scientists reviewed more than 100 studies. It turns out, just five genes are the common link.

“This clustering of genes which makes you prone to make you have red, light hair, light eyes, blue eyes, light skin pigmentation are the same genes that make you prone to melanoma,” said Dr. Robin Gehris, of the Children’s Hospital dermatology department.

It suggests the genetic code for this disease might be the reason light-haired, light-skinned people are more prone, not necessarily the lack of pigment.

“It’s sort of quantifying what we’ve figured out by epidemiologic studies of melanoma over the past 10 plus years,” said Dr. Gehris. “But I think it’s a start to then looking into those genes and seeing what could be manipulated to maybe decrease a person’s risk.”

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But since we can’t do that now, is there anything you can do if that’s the hand you’re dealt?

“At the moment, you can’t change you’re genetic makeup,” said Dr. Gehris. “The only thing you can change in terms of your risk profile is your exposure.”

That means protecting yourself from the sun and avoiding sunburns.

Experts say 68,000 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma each year.

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Journal of the National Cancer Institute
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