Family History of Melanoma Doubles Parkinson’s Disease Risk

A large study, involving nearly 157,000 people, shows that family history of melanoma may be linked to increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. Family history of melanoma showed double the risk of Parkinson’s disease in the study group, when researchers compared to those with no family history of melanoma.

The new study, due for presentation at the 61st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, beginning April 25 2009, looked into family history of the individuals included in the study. The researchers asked the group whether their siblings or parents had been diagnosed with melanoma. None of the nearly 157000 individuals had Parkinson’s disease.

The scientists monitored the group for fourteen to twenty years, finding that 616 of the individuals followed in the study were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Study author Xiang Gao, MD, PhD, of the Harvard University School of Public Health in Boston, MA, says, “The results from this study suggest that melanoma and Parkinson’s could share common genetic components.” The study found that individuals with a family history of melanoma had twice the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, compared to those with no family history.

Interestingly, past studies have shown that people with Parkinson’s disease also have a greater risk of melanoma. The group recommends further studies to clarify the link between melanoma and Parkinson’s disease.

Family history of melanoma may provide clues that can also help identify individuals at risk for Parkinson’s disease, leading to early intervention.

Kathleen Blanchard RN