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Redhead Skin Cancer Risk: Like Spending 21 Extra Years in Sun

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By    |   Wednesday, 13 Jul 2016 07:53 AM

Redheads have a skin cancer risk much higher than usual, about equal to 21 extra years in the sun, according to one of those studies that more precisely establishes what we already know.

In the new study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers discovered that the same gene variants that cause red hair along with fair, freckly skin were also connected to higher mutations leading to skin cancers, reported Reuters.

Researchers found that people with only one copy of the critical MC1R gene and who have fair skin without red hair are still at a higher risk.

"It has been known for a while that a person with red hair has an increased likelihood of developing skin cancer, but this is the first time that the gene has been proven to be associated with skin cancers with more mutations," said David Adams in a Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute statement.

"Unexpectedly, we also showed that people with only a single copy of the gene variant still have a much higher number of tumor mutations than the rest of the population. This is one of the first examples of a common genetic profile having a large impact on a cancer genome and could help better identify people at higher risk of developing skin cancer."

In its reporting on the study, NBC News said red-headed people are from one to two percent of the world's population, but those population rates are higher among people descended from Northern Europe. And not all of the mutations associated with the MCR1R gene are caused by the sun's radiation.

Researchers in the Nature study looked at 400 melanoma patients across the globe who were involved in a larger skin cancer study, noted NBC News. Those with a "disruptive versions" of the MC1R gene had the mutations known to be caused by the sun's rays, but also other mutations as well.

"The take-home message for folks with red hair is that all the sun protection messaging that we've heard over the years — including being really aggressive about sun screen use, about choosing a broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher and applying every 2-3 hours with very heavy sun exposure — really is as important to them as anyone," said Dr. Joseph Merola, a dermatologist at the Brigham and Women's Hospital.

"We've known for many years now that redheads have a 10 to 100 times increase risk of melanoma, and even though they make up only one to two percent of the population, they make up to 16 percent of those with melanoma," he told NBC News.

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Redheads have a skin cancer risk much higher than usual, about equal to 21 extra years in the sun, according to one of those studies that more precisely establishes what we already know.
redhead, skin, cancer, risk
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2016-53-13
Wednesday, 13 Jul 2016 07:53 AM
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