Red Hair & Freckles Increases Skin Cancer Risk Exponentially, New Study Finds

If you have the genes that result in a pale complexion with freckles and red hair, a new study has shown that this increases the chances of contracting skin cancer in comparison to other skin types gaining more than 21 years of UVA/UVB exposure.

Say what?

The study took a look at the variations of genes that result in red hair, fair complexion and freckles. This gene, MC1R, can also be found in people who show one or more attributes, such as just having red hair and no freckles. Anyone who has this gene, researchers affirmed, are at increased risk of skin cancer.

People with red hair account for about 1.5% of the population, but have greater density in Britain, where they account for about 6%. The MC1R gene is present in two forms in these people, affecting the melanin pigment created by their body, which results in the photo sensitivity and an increased burning risk from overexposure to the sun. It is thought by the current body of science that these specific genes make people more reactive to UV light, which can then affect their DNA.

The study has been published in Nature Communications. It was the result of DNA collection from 400 people who had cancer. In 42% of the cases, there were increased sun-caused mutations found in persons who had the MC1R gene. The findings concluded that this gene not only has the propensity to increase skin cancer risks, but to also exacerbate other mutations found in cancerous tumors.

For those who are sensitive to sunlight, and who possess the MC1R gene, a stronger SPF sunscreen is the best way to ward off UV damage. Experts advise that you look for ultra-strength sunscreens rated at SPF 100. Also, wearing long sleeves, a hat and sunglasses can help further protect sensitive skin from sun exposure.

When searching for your sunscreen, make sure you read the label and the ingredients. A recent report found that over 40% of sunscreens on the market don't meet current safety standards set by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). To best protect yourself, make sure you reapply sunscreen every couple of hours, and avoid going out during the sun's peak hours, which are between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily.

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