Photobiology and genetics of malignant melanoma


Professor Jean-Paul Ortonne. E-mail:


The current state of knowledge of melanoma genetics is reviewed. Mutations in the tumour suppressor gene CDKN2A and in the oncogenes N-ras and H-ras seem to play the most important roles in the development and progression of malignant melanoma. Experimental studies to determine the role of ultraviolet (UV) light in the induction of melanoma have been hampered by a lack of suitable animal models. The commonly used laboratory animals are not susceptible to the induction of melanoma upon exposure to UV radiation (UVR) alone. Recent observations with four different animals have suggested, however, that UVR may be involved in the induction of melanoma. The most recent model consists of human skin grafted onto immunodeficient mice. To date, using this model, only the combination of UVB (280–320 nm) exposure and topical promoter treatment has led to the development of malignant melanoma. The wavelength dependency of the induction of melanoma has been established in the fish model Xiphophorus. The application of such an action spectrum to humans looks possible.