New genes discovered that determine skin's reaction to UV

Scientists have discovered sections of DNA that influence whether someone’s skin tans or burns.

The discovery is a step towards the development of genetic tests that could predict a person’s response to sunlight, and help researchers understand the genetics of skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in European descendants.

The researchers believe there could be genetic factors other than simply the colour of an individual’s skin that can protect people from the sun.

The study, led by Dr Mario Falchi and published in the journal Nature Communications, was the largest of its kind and used data from almost 200,000 people. The team found variability in the likeliness of burning in the same pigmentation levels of different people: “Some of these genes involved in skin cancer probably have nothing to do with pigmentation,” he told The Independent.

The scientists identified 10 new genetic regions that they believe to be linked with tanning. “By using a very large sample size, we are able to identify almost all the genes involved in determining a particular trait – which is very interesting because once this can be defined you can develop some real genetic prediction tests,” said Falchi.