Patients who become aware of their personal genetic risk for melanoma may engage in more conversations regarding cancer risk with family and health care professionals, leading to healthier lifestyle changes, according to a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Melanoma is among the most preventable cancers through behavior modification and is also easily detected on regular skin examinations, but these available preventive methods are highly underutilized.

For this study, researchers enrolled participants without any personal history of melanoma and administered a DNA test that assessed patient risk for melanoma. Three months after, patients were given questionnaires including items about communication and discussion with their family or health care professionals. Thirty participants were stratified to 3 groups based on whether they were low, average, or high genomic risk, and interviewed.

The results of the study showed that 74% of participants spoke about their genomic risk with their family, and 49% spoke about it to friends.

The percentage of patients who spoke to a health care professional varied by the level of risk; 41% of high risk, 16% of average risk, and 12% of low risk participants said they spoke to a health care professional.

Qualitative data from interviews revealed that the potential genetic risk shared with family members as well as interest from family and friends were motivations for discussion.

The authors conclude that “melanoma is largely preventable, and even modest changes to sun protection and skin examination behaviors at a population level could have a significant impact on melanoma prevention and early detection.”

Reference

1. Smith AK, Keogh LA, Newson AJ, et al. Does personalized melanoma genomic risk information trigger conversations about skin cancer prevention and skin examination with family, friends and health professionals? [published online June 13, 2017]. Br J Dermatol. doi: 10.1111/bjd.15744