Skin cancer risk for fair-skinned, without red hair may lie in gene mutation
Scientists unexpectedly find those with 1 copy of gene variant at higher risk of skin cancer than average
Their study found gene variants that produce red hair and freckly, fair skin were linked to a higher number of mutations that lead to skin cancers. The researchers said even people with one copy of the crucial MC1R gene — who may be fair-skinned but not have red hair — have a higher risk.
"Unexpectedly, we also showed that people with only a single copy of the gene variant still have a much higher number of tumour mutations than the rest of the population."
Exposure to ultraviolet light from either the sun or sunbeds causes damage to DNA and scientists think the type of skin pigment linked to redheads may allow more UV to reach the DNA.
Cancer propensity beyond UV risk
In this latest study, the researchers found that while this may be one factor in the damage, there are also others linked to the crucial MC1R gene.
The research showed the MC1R gene variation not only increased the number of spontaneous mutations caused by sunlight, but also raised the level of other mutations in the tumours.
This suggests, the researchers said, that there are biological processes in the way cancer develops in people with MC1R variation that are not only related to ultraviolet light.
"It also underlines that it isn't just people with red hair who need to protect themselves from too much sun."
The Canadian Cancer Society recommends:
- Be extra careful between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Cover up as much as possible with tightly woven or UV-protective labelled clothing.
- Use a sunscreen with a minimum skin protection factor (SPF) of 30. Sunscreen should be labelled "broad-spectrum" and "water resistant."