As diseases go, melanoma and Parkinson’s seem poles apart. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, whereas Parkinson’s disease has debilitating neurological effects. However, despite their apparent differences, research points to a surprising link between the two.
A Harvard study spanning two decades followed the health 132,000 men and women, none of whom started with Parkinson’s. However, 543 cases were reported over the years. Analyzing each participant’s family and personal melanoma history, the researchers found that a genetic tendency towards melanoma almost doubles a person’s likelihood for developing Parkinson’s.
Although theories about the connection are in their earliest stages, the researchers believe there may be similar genetic mechanisms intrinsic to both conditions.
“The metabolism of pigments, and genes that encode the proteins in this process, may, at least in part, explain this association,” Dr. Xiang Gao told Reuters last year. And if the association can be verified with further studies, it may mean better preventative care in the future.
“Our findings, if confirmed,” Gao continued, “will help clinicians to identify high-risk populations for Parkinson’s disease.”
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