Background  Patients with familial melanoma or multiple primary melanoma represent a high-risk population to hereditary melanoma. Mutations in susceptibility genes, such as CDKN2A, CDK4 and MC1R, have been associated with the development of melanoma.

Objectives  The purpose of this study was to determine the genotypic background of patients with familial and/or multiple melanoma in southern Brazil.

Methods  This study analysed 33 cases (5 patients with multiple primary melanoma and 28 patients from families with at least two well documented cases) and 29 controls. Genomic analysis of CDKN2A and CDK4 genes by PCR-SSCP analysis and sequencing and direct sequencing of MC1R were performed in all individuals.

Results  No functional mutations in CDKN2A or CDK4 were detected in the 62 individuals. Infrequent variants in polymorphic loci of CDKN2A gene were identified in 15 participants (24.2%) and 24/33 (72.8%) cases and 19/27 (70.4%) controls reported at least one infrequent variant in MC1R (P = 0.372). Furthermore, a non-significant tendency towards an association between melanoma risk and MC1R variants G274A and C451T and a non-significant linear tendency to the number of infrequent high-risk variants in MC1R were observed.

Conclusions  These results suggest that in southern Brazilian population, CDKN2A or CDK4 germinal alterations may have a weaker influence than previously thought and environmental risk factors may play a central role in melanoma susceptibility. However, considering the tendency observed for gene MC1R, low-penetrance genes may be a relevant aetiological factor in southern Brazil with fair skin population and high sunlight exposure.