• Fri, Nov 2 2012

Study Explains Why Redheads Face More Melanoma…Even If They Avoid Sun

Redheads may be naturally pale and more inclined to seek out some sun, but according to a new study, even without the sun, they are at a higher risk for melanoma. In other words, redheads, your genes may be predisposing you to skin cancer, even if you never go outside. Thanks, mom and dad, right?

Published in the journal Nature, researchers found that those with red hair are not only more likely to freckle and burn, but they are also more likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer–even more so than blonds.

Dr. David E. Fisher, director of the melanoma program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Charlestown and senior author of the study explained in a statement:

Even if you’re good about avoiding UV rays—you know, putting on sunscreen, wearing protective clothes and being careful at the beach—it’s still possible this red pigment is related to carcinogenic activity anyway.

In the study, Fisher and his team set out to determine how mice would react to ultraviolet light. Originally they wanted to study how moles would turn into melanoma. What they found was surprising: Even before the mice with redhead pigmentation were exposed to UV rays, they were more prone to develop the skin cancer. In fact, 50% of the redheads developed melanoma within a year. Meanwhile, the mice with black and blond pigments were less likely to develop melanoma.

Shocking, huh?

The researchers thought so too, said Fisher.

We were very surprised. In fact, one of the first things we did was go back into the animal room with a UV meter just to be sure that for some inexplicable reason the lights were not actually emitting ultraviolet radiation.

Even though we know better now, this information could be dangerous for those with red hair, suggests Dr. Meenhard Herlyn, a microbiologist and dermatology professor at Philadelphia’s Wistar Institute:

The big danger here is that somebody will say, ‘Oh, well if I can’t do anything about it, then I can go to a suntanning salon and go tanning on the beach and just call it fate.’ That’s not the case. One still has to be very conscientious about not getting a sunburn and getting the damage.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that more than 76,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma this year and more than 9,000 will die from it, so be careful, no matter what color hair you have. And be sure to get annual exams by your dermatologist.

 

Photo: shutterstock.com

 

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  • ToddB

    It’s funny how people that report this story,
    and even the authors of the study, continue to ignore that this study is yet
    another reason to believe that the sun is not the killer it’s purported to be.
    Sure, overexposure can cause a slight increase in risk. But, as this study alludes
    to, melanomas are primarily caused by genetics. The author even notes that
    “mutations that drive the disease are only rarely related to UV
    damage.” But then he goes on to talk about sunscreens and protection from
    UV light….It’s become quite apparent to me, with the emerging evidence on
    vitamin D and cancer prevention, that extreme anti-sun messages are leading to
    far more cancers (yes, even skin cancers) than they are preventing. It’s time
    to embrace moderate UV exposure as a crucial aspect of a healthy lifestyle.