A recent study revealed that redheads are up to 100 times more susceptible to melanoma, but why is this so and what can you do to prevent skin cancer if you have red hair?
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer; it kills more than 2,000 people every year in the UK. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer; it originates in the skin and then spreads to other parts of the body. The most common sign of melanoma is an unusual shaped or coloured mole; if you have a mole that has grown, is an irregular shape, has raised edges or has changed colour, you should get it checked out by a doctor Melanoma occurs as a result of abnormal development of cells in the skin; the exact cause of this is not fully understood, but it is known that exposure to natural and artificial UV light increases the risk of skin cancer.
Risk factors for melanoma
Risk factors for melanoma include having fair skin, which burns easily, family history of skin disease, having a lot of moles and freckles and having blonde or red hair. Risk factors are factors, which increase the risk of developing a specific disease; they do not necessarily mean that you are going to suffer from a disease if you have any of the risk factors, but you should take extra care, especially when in sunlight for prolonged periods of time.
Why are redheads more susceptible to melanoma?
It has been known for many years that people with red hair have a higher risk of developing skin cancer; however, it is only recently that researchers have discovered why. Researchers in America believe that they have found the answer to the question, ‘why are redheads more susceptible to melanoma?’ after discovering a genetic mutation, which reduced protection against the sun and stimulated the production of cancer cells. Studies showed that the gene MC1R-RHC, where RHC stands for red hair colour, may increase the risk of skin cancer. Dr Wenyi Wei, from HarvardMedicalSchool, explained that the presence of this gene may increase the risk of melanoma by up to 100 times, as the gene variant makes red heads much more susceptible to skin damage from the sun than people with darker hair and skin.
The best way to prevent melanoma is to stay out of the sun. If you are planning to be outside for a long time or you are on holiday in a hot country, always ensure that you have sun cream on; if you have fair skin and you burn easily, use a high factor and remember to re-apply throughout the day, especially if you are swimming. Avoid the midday sun, when the UV rays are at their strongest and wear a sun hat; it is also important to keep hydrated when you are in the sun. Keep an eye on your moles and check your skin regularly; if you notice changes to your moles or you see new moles that seem to be growing, see your doctor. The chances are that there will be nothing wrong, but it is always best to be cautious because early treatment is much more likely to be successful.