What Your Hair Color May Tell You About Your Risk For Skin Cancer

Photographed by Brayden Olson.
It's widely known — and the WHO clearly states — that people with fairer skin, light or red hair, and freckles are at a greater risk of developing skin cancer. A new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, points to a possible reason why these people have a much higher risk for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Related: How One Trip To The Dermatologist Saved My Skin

For the study, researchers looked at 400 melanoma patients' DNA sequences and found that people who had one specific gene, the MC1R gene, had 42% more mutations in their skin cells. These mutations occur due to sun damage and make it easier for cancer to spread. "This figure is comparable to the expected mutational burden associated with an additional 21 years of age, the researchers wrote." (Whoa.)

Here's the thing: MC1R is the same gene that causes those visible traits we mentioned earlier.
The researchers concluded that people with the MC1R gene are at a greater risk of having skin cancer, because it might facilitate the cancer's growth. The fact that this gene is also linked to red hair, fair skin, and freckles only further validates what we already knew about who's more likely to get skin cancer.

Related: The (Surprising) First Thing You Should Do When You Get A Sunburn

One thing to keep in mind is that blondes and brunettes can carry this gene, too — it's just that redheads tend to carry two variants of it. At any rate, it's important to check your skin regularly for any changes, talk to your doctor if you notice something, and protect yourself from the sun year-round, regardless of your hair color.

Click through to Shape for more tips on staying healthy all summer long. (Shape)

Related: Are There *Really* Health Benefits To Sunbathing?

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