University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute leads a genetic testing study that motivates behavioral changes in families facing awareness of the risks of developing melanoma.


Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is collaborating with Northwestern University and Oregon Health and Science University to investigate whether genetic testing would motivate people at risk of developing the most severe type of skin cancer to change their behavior in order to reduce their risk reports KUTV Salt Lake City, Utah. Published in Genetics in Medicine, the study team seeks to “understand whether a genetic test result adds value over and above what can be achieved by patient counseling alon,e” stated study co-author Dr. Lisa G. Aspinwall, HCI researcher and professor of psychology at the University of Utah.

The Study

The Utah Behavior, Risk Information, Genealogy, and Health Trial (BRIGHT) study focuses on those families facing higher risks for melanoma—enrollees send three or more family members diagnosed with the skin cancer. The team included genetic counselors, psychologists, a dermatologist, photobiologists, and an atmospheric scientist.

By examining the changes in sun exposure post genetic counseling and test reporting, additional objective measures were made to track and monitor participants with a special wrist device, with the hopes of measuring ultraviolet light exposure and a laser that measured skin tone to assess levels and degree of tanning.

The participants, ages 16 to 70, were recruited from melanoma-prone families of two types: 1) those with known cancer-causing gene called CDKN2A and families with comparably high rates of melanoma but no identified CDKN2A mutation. The University of Utah reported that those who carry an inherited mutation in the gene are rare, but those people have up to a 76% chance of developing skin cancer in their lifetime.

The Findings

The results showed genetic counseling about highly elevated melanoma at-risk led to sustained reductions in sun exposure. The study results produced evidence of a unique benefit to participants who received genetic testing, where those who learned they carried the gene demo clearly reduced sun exposure to daily UV radiation the month following counseling and had lighter skin pigmentation one year later.

Lead Investigator Comments

Dr. Lisa G. Aspinwall noted, “The results support the use of melanoma genetic testing to motivate people to adopt risk-reducing behaviors.

Lead Research/Investigator

Dr. Lisa G. Aspinwall, HCI researcher and professor of psychology at the University of Utah.

Source: KUTV

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