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Dublin: 2°C Thursday 20 January 2022

People with red hair are more at risk of developing skin cancer

Being born with a red hair gene may double your chance of developing skin cancer.

People with red hair and pale skin need to be particularly careful in the sun.
People with red hair and pale skin need to be particularly careful in the sun.
Image: Shutterstock/racorn

IT’S A BAD day for redheads (and former redheads who have been dyeing their hair since the beginning of time).

New research shows that being born with a ‘red hair gene’ may double your chance of developing melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

The Irish Skin Foundation is calling on Irish people to get wise when it comes to looking after our skin.

These findings have particular relevance in an Irish context, given that the population is mostly pale or fair-skinned.

Meanwhile, studies show we all think we have much darker skin than we actually do.

While it is accepted that a person’s natural skin colour influences their risk of skin cancer, studies indicate that those with lighter skin tend to judge themselves to be darker than they actually are.

The research found that certain people are at risk even without exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or sunbeds.

Here comes the science bit:

The research published in America this month examined the gene that regulates human skin colour – known as the MC1R gene.

Researchers found that inheriting certain variants of the MC1R gene – red hair, pale skin and freckles – doubles the risk of melanoma developing.

As a result, the Irish Skin Foundation is urging everyone to examine their skin type to get a better sense of how much care we need to take in the sun.


Protect and Inspect

The Irish Skin Foundation is also reminding everyone to think of the five ‘Ss’ of sun safety this summer: Slip on t-shirt; Slop on broadscreen sunscreen factor 30+; Slap on a sun hat; Slide on sunglasses; Seek shade.

And remember to regularly examine your skin and look out for the sudden appearance of a new mole or a change in an existing one.

Read: Hugh Jackman tells people to wear sunscreen after another skin cancer surgery

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