There’s a link between red hair and melanoma.
Red hair is definitely one of nature’s most beautiful mutations! It’s estimated that just 1 to 2% of the world’s population has red hair, but having red hair can be quite a good thing:
- Red hair doesn’t turn grey like other colors. It will usually turn blond, then go gradually to white.
- Some experts believe red-heads have more sex than others.
- Red hair is usually thicker than regular hair, so redheads have fewer individual strands of hair–90,000 strands compared to the 140,000 of blond hair.
- One legend says that the very first person with red hair got it after discovering the lost continent of Atlantis.
- It’s speculated that Adam (the first man on Earth) was a red head.
- 71% of redheads describe themselves as “bold”
However, being a redhead does come with its downsides. For example, natural redheads tend to bruise more easily, and they tend to be more susceptible to pain.
One of the primary risks of being a redhead is an increased risk of skin cancer. That’s right, there is a link between red hair and melanoma.
Let us explain…
First, you have to understand what causes red hair in the first place. There is a gene called M1CR that, when it suffers a specific mutation, leads to fair skin and red hair. This M1CR mutation is responsible for creating all of the redheads on the planet today.
READ MORE: 10 Skin Healing Foods
However, that same genetic mutation can not only lead to fair skin, but it can lead to problems with tanning. The mutation stops the skin from being able to absorb sunlight and produce melanin properly, which is why so many redheads have a difficult time tanning. (Have you ever seen a tanned redhead?)
The mutation can also make the skin cells more likely to become carcinogenic when exposed to a lot of UV radiation. This UV radiation comes from the sunlight, so a lot of time spent in the sun will lead to more than just a sunburn. The risk of developing melanoma (skin cancer) is much higher, thanks to the fact that your skin cannot process UV radiation as effectively as darker skin types.
In normal people, the M1CR gene is normally bound to another gene called PTEN. This PTEN gene helps to protect your body against the microscopic changes in your cells that could lead to developing melanoma. In redheads, however, the M1CR gene does NOT bind with the PTEN gene. As a result, when your skin comes in contact with sunlight, the UV radiation destroys the PTEN gene. The growth of melanocytes (cells that produce pigment) increases as a result of the PTEN gene destruction. This accelerated growth is similar to the effect caused by skin cancer.
There is another possible explanation for the problem: pheomelanin, a different type of skin pigment. People with red hair produce this pigment, which makes the cells of their skin more susceptible to damage by the UV radiation. The damage goes all the way to the genetic level (destroying the PTEN gene), and the result is a higher risk of skin cancer.
Regardless of the cause, it’s vital to understand that having red hair and fair skin makes you not only more likely to burn from too much sun, but also to develop skin cancer. It’s important that you take steps to protect your skin when out in the sun (using sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, etc.). Try to reduce the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight, and always wear UV protection when out and about.