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Redheads and people with an MC1R gene variant should protect themselves well from the sun
If you have red hair, pale skin and freckles, you have to be particularly careful with the powers of the sun. The genes responsible increase the risk of skin cancer. The gene variant not only leads to red hair, it also increases the risk of developing skin cancer. This increased risk is comparable to the expected mutation that occurs within an additional 21 years of life.
Redheads are often mocked at school and usually get sunburned more easily due to their fair skin. Researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have now found that genes responsible also increase the risk of skin cancer. There are also people with a copy of the MC1R gene who are fair-skinned but not red-haired. The gene variant is also associated with a higher number of mutations in these patients, which can lead to skin cancer. The scientists published the results of their study in the journal "Nature Communications".
The MC1R gene increases the likelihood of skin cancer
Are you one of those people with red hair, fair skin and freckles? Then you should be especially careful in summer and always protect yourself well from the sun. A gene variant in redheads means that a higher number of mutations can occur, which then lead to skin cancer, the authors explain. The so-called MRC1 gene can also occur in people without red hair.
A single copy of the MC1R gene variant leads to more mutated tumors
It has been known for a while that a person with red hair is more likely to develop skin cancer at some point in life. However, the results of the new study show for the first time that a gene is linked to the increased number of mutations and skin cancer, the scientists explain. It was also unexpected to see that people with a single copy of this gene variant had a much higher number of mutant tumors compared to the rest of the population, the experts add.
Redheads should avoid the sun and sun beds
Redheads make up between one and two percent of the world's population. In the UK, there are even six percent of people with red hair. Those affected have two copies of a variant of the so-called MC1R gene, the researchers explain. These lead to red hair, freckles and pale skin, which is often burned by the sun in summer. Exposure to UV light is caused by either the sun or sun beds in solariums. Redheads should listen to the experts and not take their warning of sunbathing lightly.
Redheads should avoid some professions
However, sometimes people have no choice but to be exposed to extreme sunlight, for example when you are working outdoors. People who work as construction workers or roofers are mostly particularly at risk from the sun. But other professional groups also have an increased risk of skin cancer. When redheads work in such professions, their risk increases further.
Study analyzed data from tumor DNA sequences from more than 400 cancer patients
For their study, the team analyzed the data from the tumor DNA sequences of more than 400 people with cancer. They found that there was an average of 42 percent more sun-associated mutations in people with an MC1R gene variant.
MC1R gene variant increases the number of spontaneous mutations caused by sunlight
The MC1R gene variant not only increases the number of spontaneous mutations caused by sunlight, but also increases the level of other mutations in the tumors, the experts explain. This clearly indicates that there are biological processes in the development of cancer in people with MC1R that are not only related to exposure to UV light. Red-haired people should be extra careful with strong sunlight. It is particularly important for such people to protect themselves from the sun with sunscreen and long clothing, so as not to develop skin cancer, the doctors emphasize. (as)