Melanocortin-1 receptor genotype is a risk factor for basal and squamous cell carcinoma

J Invest Dermatol. 2001 Feb;116(2):224-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1747.2001.01224.x.


MC1R gene variants have previously been associated with red hair and fair skin color, moreover skin ultraviolet sensitivity and a strong association with melanoma has been demonstrated for three variant alleles that are active in influencing pigmentation: Arg151Cys, Arg160Trp, and Asp294His. This study has confirmed these pigmentary associations with MC1R genotype in a collection of 220 individuals drawn from the Nambour community in Queensland, Australia, 111 of whom were at high risk and 109 at low risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Comparative allele frequencies for nine MC1R variants that have been reported in the Caucasian population were determined for these two groups, and an association between prevalence of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, solar keratosis and the same three active MC1R variant alleles was demonstrated [odds ratio = 3.15 95% CI (1.7, 5.82)]. Three other commonly occurring variant alleles: Val60Leu, Val92Met, and Arg163Gln were identified as having a minimal impact on pigmentation phenotype as well as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma risk. A significant heterozygote effect was demonstrated where individuals carrying a single MC1R variant allele were more likely to have fair and sun sensitive skin as well as carriage of a solar lesion when compared with those individuals with a consensus MC1R genotype. After adjusting for the effects of pigmentation on the association between MC1R variant alleles and basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma risk, the association persisted, confirming that presence of at least one variant allele remains informative in terms of predicting risk for developing a solar-induced skin lesion beyond that information wained through observation of pigmentation phenotype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics*
  • Genetic Variation / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Phenotype
  • Queensland / epidemiology
  • Receptors, Corticotropin / genetics*
  • Receptors, Melanocortin
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Skin Pigmentation / genetics
  • Skin Pigmentation / radiation effects
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Receptors, Corticotropin
  • Receptors, Melanocortin