The Mysteries of the “Redhead Genetic Code”: What MC1R can teach us about Skin Cancer

October 11th, 2016

Red-headed Girl

It has long been known that those with red hair and fair skin, were at a greater risk of developing one of the most deadly forms of Skin Cancer known as Melanoma. Howeverб it was only this past month that researchers were able to identify a single gene which is responsible for this increased risk. Known as MC1R, and now dubbed the “Ginger Gene”, this is now thought to be the connection between red hair and cancer that had been so previously elusive. Read on if you are intrigued: New research gives insight into the causes of Melanoma.

Research of this nature is very promising as it is likely to lead to a more comprehensive diagnosis of skin cancer in all populations. There is also reason to believe that findings of this nature could also eventually lead to cancer treatment breakthroughs which could have far-reaching consequences for treating what many epidemiologists have found is the fastest growing cause of death around the world. Knowing more about the genetic component of cancers could make all the difference in the world and truly lead to a bold, cancer free world.

Researchers originally thought that MC1R was only found in those with lighter skin and reddish or auburn hair but surprisingly this research shed light into just how common this genetic code is in international populations. MC1R is actually found in as many as one and four people around the world. This staggering amount of people suggests many may be at risk for skin cancer without having the same awareness that solar exposure can be dangerous that redheads tend to have based on the way they can develop sunburns. It is very important to spread this information to anyone that enjoys spending time outside in the sun. Solar exposure is not dangerous but is important to take precautions to protect against the natural risk people can have as a result of their potentially unknown genetic variation.

What is even more shocking perhaps is not the fact that MC1R has been linked to causing skin cancer in redheaded people but that it is far more prevalent in the rest of the non-redheaded population than was ever known. For decades if not centuries, those with red hair and paler complexions have been aware that exposure to the sun could be risky. People of this population tend to burn very easily. While this research did not have to do with the prevalence of sunburn, it none the less casts more light onto the connection between solar exposure and skin cancer.

Redheaded men and women who carry the “Redhead Genetic Code” have two copies of the specific gene known as MC1R. Related to the creation of melanin, a dark protein that gives natural protection against UV dangers from solar exposure, the “Ginger Gene” is actually far more common than researchers originally guessed. As it now turns out, up to one-quarter of all people in the world carry MC1R.

Interestingly many more people carry gene which can lead to Melanoma. These individuals may be at a greater risk for Melanoma without being aware of their danger. They could have skin tones and complexions far darker than those associated with redheaded people. While the research into the “Redhead Genetic Code” is just beginning, its discovery is very promising for future understandings between the connection between Skin Cancer and Solar Exposure. Research like this is helping to make it easier for people around the world to know how to best take care of their skin and protect themselves from environmental factors that could lead to negative health outcomes.

The most current research into skin cancer suggests that many more people carry the potential to develop it than was previously realized. Increasingly medical researchers are seeing that skin cancer is likely to be caused by both the prevalence of a genetic component, such as the recently identified as the MC18 Gene and environmental exposure. What this means is, many people may be at risk of developing various types of skin cancer such as the deadly Melanoma but depending on the lifestyle choices they make, such as using sunscreen or not, the risk could be increased or even lessened.

As a result, it is important for everyone to be proactive about taking care of their skin and protecting it from the potentially detrimental effects of the sun. This further highlights why it is important for people of all skin tones and complexions to take a good hard look at what they are doing to protect themselves during times of increased exposure to the warming rays of the sun. During the hotter summer months, many people think of skin protectants, sunscreens and shady covering as natural responses to the climate. Those that do not consider these measures really ought to though.

The best leading science suggests that skin complexion and hair color may not be enough to tell if an individual is at greater risk of developing skin cancer. This is a very important take away and should be kept in mind during the summer months and year round. Being out in the sun is an excellent way to get the Vitamin D necessary to prevent cancer but is important to know that overexposure could cause a risk. As with many things in life, a balanced approach to solar exposure is probably best for all people, regardless of skin tone, hair color or complexion.

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