Higher polygenic risk for melanoma is associated with improved survival in a high ultraviolet radiation setting

J Transl Med. 2022 Sep 5;20(1):403. doi: 10.1186/s12967-022-03613-2.


Background: The role of germline genetic factors in determining survival from cutaneous melanoma (CM) is not well understood.

Objective: To perform a genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis of melanoma-specific survival (MSS), and test whether a CM-susceptibility polygenic risk score (PRS) is associated with MSS.

Methods: We conducted two Cox proportional-hazard GWAS of MSS using data from the Melanoma Institute Australia, a high ultraviolet (UV) radiation setting (MIA; 5,762 patients with melanoma; 800 melanoma deaths) and UK Biobank (UKB: 5,220 patients with melanoma; 241 melanoma deaths), and combined them in a fixed-effects meta-analysis. Significant (P < 5 × 10-8) results were investigated in the Leeds Melanoma Cohort (LMC; 1,947 patients with melanoma; 370 melanoma deaths). We also developed a CM-susceptibility PRS using a large independent GWAS meta-analysis (23,913 cases, 342,870 controls). The PRS was tested for an association with MSS in the MIA and UKB cohorts.

Results: Two loci were significantly associated with MSS in the meta-analysis of MIA and UKB with lead SNPs rs41309643 (G allele frequency 1.6%, HR = 2.09, 95%CI = 1.61-2.71, P = 2.08 × 10-8) on chromosome 1, and rs75682113 (C allele frequency 1.8%, HR = 2.38, 95%CI = 1.77-3.21, P = 1.07 × 10-8) on chromosome 7. While neither SNP replicated in the LMC, rs75682113 was significantly associated in the combined discovery and replication sets. After adjusting for age at diagnosis, sex and the first ten principal components, a one standard deviation increase in the CM-susceptibility PRS was associated with improved MSS in the discovery meta-analysis (HR = 0.88, 95% CI = 0.83-0.94, P = 6.93 × 10-5; I2 = 88%). However, this was only driven by the high UV setting cohort (MIA HR = 0.84, 95% CI = 0.78-0.90).

Conclusion: We found two loci potentially associated with MSS. Increased genetic susceptibility to develop CM is associated with improved MSS in a high UV setting.

Keywords: Genome-wide association study; Melanoma; Melanoma-specific survival; Polygenic risk score; Skin cancer.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Melanoma* / genetics
  • Melanoma, Cutaneous Malignant
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide / genetics
  • Skin Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Ultraviolet Rays