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.
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 team, whose work was published in the journal Nature Communications, analyzed data from of tumor DNA sequences collected from more than 400 people with cancer. They found an average of 42 percent more sun-associated mutations in tumors from people carrying the MC1R gene variant.
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 tumors.
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.
“This … explains why red-haired people have to be so careful about covering up in strong sun,” said Julie Sharp of the charity Cancer Research UK, which co-funded the research.
“It also underlines that it isn’t just people with red hair who need to protect themselves from too much sun.”
Health and Wellness Associates
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