Redheads are more prone to melanoma (the most malignant skin cancer), even if they avoid sunbathing. The cause is genetic. The type of melanin they produce – the pigment responsible for red hair and white skin – makes them prone to developing melanoma, even if they avoid ultraviolet rays.
People with freckles and red hair are well aware that they are more prone to skin damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays through sunburn and photo-ageing. But a US study published in Nature regarding research conducted in mice also demonstrates that redheads tend to develop melanomas. The source is in a gene (MC1R) that controls pigmentation in mammals: when less active, it produces the reddish-yellowish phaeomelanin and, when more active, it produces the brownish-black eumelanin. The research indicates that the phaeomelanin pigment itself could cause melanoma. The authors stress, however, that the most important factor for the skin is to minimize exposure to ultraviolet rays, irrespective of our skin colour.
By: Fede Montagud