An international group of researchers in the GenoMEL project, of which Israel is a partner, has succeeded in identifying genetic and environmental risk factors for developing melanomas that are shared by a population from Europe and Australia.

Pigmentation risk factors include fair skin, blue or green eyes, blond or red hair, sun sensitivity or inability to tan, “each associated with an approximate doubling of risk,” the researchers showed.

Initial results are in and have been published in the journal Nature Genetics.

Among the targets of the GenoMEL consortium are: development of shared resources and activities; identification of new susceptibility genes and understanding the role of these genes in tumours; and investigation of genotype/phenotype interaction and gene/environmental interaction for known susceptibility genes.

GenoMEL, which stands for Genetic and environmental determinants of melanoma, is a five year project, scheduled to end in 2010. It is funded by the EU at EUR 10.45 million.

GenoMEL is being led by the University of Leeds in the UK. Partners include Tel Aviv University in Israel and universities and research centers in the US, Spain, Latvia, Poland, the Netherlands, Australia and France.