London, July 12 (ANI): It's not sunlight but moles that have the highest role in increasing the risk of skin cancer, say scientists who have claimed that the perils of sunbathing are grossly 'overstated'.
Scientists have said that sunshine is not the main cause of melanoma, but the number of moles on your skin is the most important factor in the risk of getting this dangerous form of skin cancer.
The findings have re-ignited the debate over whether official health warnings about avoiding the sun are overstated.
The scientists involved in the study maintain that sunshine causes only a small proportion of melanoma cases, but in their opinion health warnings would be more useful if they focused on people who have more than 100 moles, and taught them to check regularly the moles for changes in shape, size or colour.
However, melanoma can be treated, for instance by the early removal of a suspicious mole, but it is the most serious type of skin cancer, as it can spread to other organs in the body.
The cancer can start in an existing mole or on normal-looking skin, and can occur in people who have no moles but have fair skin and freckles.
In a recent study, researchers from Queensland, Australia, Montreal, Canada and Philadelphia, America, led by King's College London, identified two genes, which dictate how many moles someone will have, and their risk of getting skin cancer.
"The number of moles you have is one of the strongest risk factors for melanoma - stronger than sunshine. This paper shows that we found two important genes that control the number of moles you have. Those genes also give you an extra risk of melanoma," Times Online quoted Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King's College London, as saying.
Dr Veronique Bataille, a researcher at King's College, London, and dermatologist at West Hertfordshire NHS Trust, argues that we have overemphasised the risk of sun exposure.
She said: "Let's keep sunshine in the picture because it does make you age and causes you wrinkles - we have never denied that. But let's move away from scaring people by saying they are going to die because they go in the sun."
The study has been published in the current issue of the journal Nature Genetics. (ANI)