23andMe Reveals Genetics Behind Stretch Marks

Pregnancy BellyStretch marks are enough to send some new moms into a post partum panic.

That might be what fuels the estimated $5 billion to $10 billion spent on salves and oils to rub away the marks, also known as striae distensae. But scientists still don’t really understand why some individuals —men can also get the marks because of big fluctuations in their weight or BMI — end up with stretch marks while others don’t.

23andMe just published the first of its kind study looking at the genetics behind stretch marks. And the first four genetic variants were found to be associated with developing the marks.

“Through this first of its kind study, we’ve identified new genetic associations that can provide deeper insights into the root causes of stretch marks,” said Joyce Tung, Ph.D., author and 23andMe Director of Research.

In turn, the new insights could help in developing better treatments than spending hours rubbing coco butter and vitamin E oil on the marks. The work also helps point the direction for future study. One area our researchers would like to look at further is the potential effects of genes associated with obesity and the development of stretch marks, both independent of weight changes or because of weight loss or gain

The study — “Genome-wide association analysis implicates elastic microfibrils in the development of non-syndromic striae distensae” — appeared in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, published by the Nature Publishing Group.

Our researchers looked at more than 30,000 customers of European descent who responded to a survey, about a third of whom were cases (reported stretchmarks) and the rest were controls (reported no stretchmarks). The analysis identified an association between stretch marks and a variant near the ELN gene that encodes for the protein elastin. Defects in the gene are known to affect the integrity of the skin as well as cause heart defects. This study also identified an association between stretch marks and a variant in the SRPX gene, but more work is needed to understand how this could play a role in this condition.

Our researchers are continuing to work on the study looking at possible associations in non-European populations.

You can read more on this study here.


  • Travis

    Very neat. Where can I find this information within my 23andMe profile?

    • ScottH

      Hi Travis,
      We don’t have that information up yet, but in the near future put something up that allows customers to see what their data says about these associations.

  • wanda martin

    I have two questions
    1 yes I do have stretch marks
    2 I wanna do the spit test for my history but the problem neither of my parents are living.I do have brothers
    is this something I can do.

    • ScottH

      Hi Wanda,
      Yes you can test with 23andMe. The analysis is the same for men and women. And both men and women get health and ancestry information that pertains to DNA they received from both parents. The differences between the results is that women do not inherit Y chromosome from their father’s, so they will not get information about their patneral line. That doesn’t mean you do not get any information regarding what you inherited from your father. This just reflects the ability to trace the paternal line — your father’s, father’s, father and so on back through the generations. But if one of your brothers tested you would be able to get that information. That would also be helpful in that it would help you break down what in your ancestry came from your mother and what came from your father. Here’s a link to where you can find out more about any difference between the results for men and women.

  • Mama

    I’m awaiting my results and I’m also wondering, I have numerous children and no stretch marks. I got very big with some of them . Also very smooth skin as well. I really never believed it was genetic. Until now.. Question
    Is there a reason from our ancestry that may cause or reverse this trait in my descendant line?
    Why would some people have or not have this trait? For what purpose?

    • ScottH

      Because your children share genetics from both you and their father it is possible that you passed those traits to them. It’s also possible that they inherited a different genotype from their father. As for your last question, I don’t think anyone has yet looked at the evolutionary purpose for the traits.

  • Lilith

    i have stretch marks all over the usual areas as well as some unusual places, (back of knees and shoulders anyone?). i would hate to see what would happen if i did decide to have kids!
    however, i think this is more to do with fragile connective tissues more generally. Is this something you might be researching anytime soon?

  • Gemma

    Pure Argan Oil is really effective in the cure and prevention of stretch marks!

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