Redheads are more likely to develop skin cancer

13 May 2013

Redheads are more susceptible to melanoma and skin cancer, according to a new study by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Cutaneous Biology Research Centre.

Previous studies have linked natural redheads with skin cancer, but for different reasons. In the past, it was thought that their fair skin tone made them more prone to skin cancer. Now, researchers have two theories to explain the link. They believe pigment production in the hair is the primary cause. Pheomelanin, which results in a coppery shade of red hair, causes oxidative stress and possible DNA damage. In turn, this could increase vulnerability to skin cancer. Alternatively, antioxidants in the skin, triggered by pheomelanin production, may up risk.

Jeanine Downie, a spokeswoman for the Skin Cancer Foundation, said: “Redheads should get more frequent body checks. If they have no family history of skin cancer, they should still be checked at least twice a year, rather than the annual check we recommend for everyone else.”

Skin cancer is currently the most common type of cancer in Britain - have a cancer test done to assess your risk for it. Early diagnosis is the key to effective treatment.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

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