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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1991 Dec 4;83(23):1726-33.

Inheritance of nevus number and size in melanoma and dysplastic nevus syndrome kindreds.

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Department of Medical Informatics, University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City.


Previous studies of the genetics of melanoma have focused on the dysplastic nevus syndrome (DNS). The variability in clinical and histopathological expression of affected individuals, however, has made definition and diagnosis of the syndrome difficult and subjective. Independent of the DNS, case-control studies have demonstrated the total number of nevi to be a significant risk factor for melanoma. In this article, we report results of genetic analyses of two quantitative nevus phenotypes that can be measured objectively in all subjects: the total number of nevi on an individual (TNN) and total nevus density (TND), a derived phenotype which incorporates both number and size of nevi. Ten kindreds ascertained for multiple cases of DNS-melanoma (multiplex ascertainment) and 16 kindreds and 19 solitary cases ascertained from a sequential list of melanoma cases without regard for family history (simplex ascertainment) were studied. Both phenotypes exhibited increased levels in relatives of probands compared with those in spouse controls. While neither TNN nor TND exhibited evidence for a major factor in the simplex pedigrees, a major factor was strongly indicated in the multiplex kindreds for TND. When both phenotypes were examined in more detail in the multiplex kindreds, the phenotype incorporating nevus size, TND, fit a mendelian pattern of inheritance better than the TNN. Significant residual familial correlations were found for both phenotypes. Parameter estimates from the best fitting genetic model indicated that a major gene may be responsible for 55% of the phenotypic variability of TND in the multiplex kindreds.

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