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Penn State University Study of Tribe Could Help Find East Asian Skin Color Genes  
8/29/2012 7:18:29 AM

Genetic investigation of a Malaysian tribe may tell scientists why East Asians have light skin but lower skin cancer rates than Europeans, according to a team of international researchers. Understanding the differences could lead to a better way to protect people from skin cancer. While the genetics of skin color is largely unknown, past research using zebrafish by Penn State College of Medicine's Keith Cheng, M.D., Ph.D., identified the gene in Europeans that differs from West Africans and contributes to a lighter skin color. Mutations in the genes SLC24A5 and SLC45A2 are largely responsible for European pigmentation, showing only single amino acid differences between Europeans and West Africans. Each version of a gene is called an allele.
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