Are you a brown-haired redhead? With very sensitive skin?
As the summer months approach, it’s important for you to pay attention to skin safety. To be aware, and alert to the risks associated with sun exposure. particularly when you have fair skin.
You may be one of those redheads with brown hair!
Recent research suggests that those with brown hair could also be at risk of developing skin cancer, even if they don’t fall into the traditional high-risk category of being a definite redhead.
The research, conducted by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, found that individuals with brown hair who carry a specific variant of the MC1R gene may be more susceptible to skin cancer.
The study looked at databases of tumor DNA sequences from over 400 individuals from all over the world and found that those carrying the MC1R gene variant displayed 42% more sun-associated mutations in their tumors.
The MC1R gene is responsible for producing melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives color to our skin, hair, and eyes.
People with a specific variant of this gene produce more pheomelanin and less eumelanin. More pheomelanin leads to the development of red hair, freckles, and fair skin.
However, researchers have now discovered that even individuals with brown hair can carry this variant. This increases their risk of skin cancer.
Dr. David Adams, the joint lead researcher of the study, explains that “it has been known for a while that a person with red hair has an increased likelihood of developing skin cancer, but this is the first time that the gene has been proven to be associated with skin cancers with more mutations.”
How More Mutations Make a Difference
The level of mutations that are associated with the MC1R mutation is equivalent to an additional 21 years of sun exposure, compared to those who do not carry the variant.
This means that individuals with brown hair who carry the MC1R gene variant may be as much at risk of skin cancer as redheads.
The study’s joint lead author, Prof. Tim Bishop, (director of the Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology at the University of Leeds), believes that these findings could have significant implications for understanding how skin cancers form.
“Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide. This study highlights the importance of understanding the underlying genetic factors that can increase the risk of developing it. If we can identify those who are at higher risk, we can work towards developing better ways to prevent and treat skin cancer,” says Bishop.
So, what does this mean for individuals with brown hair who carry the MC1R gene variant?
First and foremost, it’s crucial to be aware of the risks associated with sun exposure and to take steps to protect your skin.
This includes wearing sunscreen with a high SPF, seeking shade during peak hours, and wearing sun blocking clothing, such as hats and long-sleeved shirts.
Skin Cancer Awareness
You must be vigilant when it comes to checking your skin for any changes or abnormalities. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends checking your skin at least once a month, looking for any new or changing moles or spots.
If you notice any changes in your skin, such as a new or changing mole or a spot that looks different from the others, it’s important to see a dermatologist right away.
Skin cancer is highly treatable if caught early, so it’s crucial to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
In addition to taking steps to protect your skin from the sun and being vigilant about checking for any changes, it’s also important to know your family history.
Skin cancer can run in families, so if you have a history of the disease, you may be at a higher risk.
Finally, it’s important to understand that while carrying the MC1R gene variant may increase your risk of developing skin cancer, it does not mean that you will necessarily develop the disease.
By taking steps to protect your skin, being vigilant about checking for any changes, and seeking medical attention if necessary, you can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
Factors Besides the MC1R Gene
In addition to the MC1R gene, researchers have identified other genetic factors that can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
These include genes related to skin pigmentation, DNA repair, and immune response.
One study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology: that individuals with brown hair and fair skin were at a higher risk of developing melanoma than those with dark hair and fair skin.
The researchers identified a genetic variant in a gene called BNC2 that was more common in people with brown hair and fair skin. This gene was associated with a higher risk of melanoma.
Another study published in the same journal found that a genetic variant in a gene called ASIP was associated with an increased risk of melanoma in people with brown hair, but not in those with blonde or red hair.
These findings suggest that people with brown hair may have a unique genetic susceptibility to skin cancer that is different from that of people with other hair colors.
Behavioral and Environmental Factors
In addition to genetic factors, there are also behavioral and environmental factors that can increase the risk of skin cancer in people with brown hair. These include:
- Sun exposure: Like people with red hair, people with brown hair are also susceptible to sun damage. Spending time in the sun without protection can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
- Indoor tanning: Using tanning beds or sunlamps can also increase the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma.
- History of sunburns: People who have had severe sunburns in the past are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer, regardless of their hair color.
- Family history: Like many other types of cancer, skin cancer can run in families. If you have a family history of skin cancer, you may be at a higher risk, regardless of your hair color.
- Age: As people age, their skin becomes less able to protect itself from UV damage, increasing the risk of skin cancer.
Changes To Improve the Risk Of Skin Cancer
To reduce the risk of skin cancer, it is important for people with brown hair to take steps to protect their skin from sun damage. This includes:
- Use Sunscreen: Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and apply it generously to all exposed skin before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
- Wearing protective clothing: Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your skin from the sun.
- Seeking shade: Stay in the shade during the sun’s peak hours, usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Avoiding indoor tanning: Avoid using tanning beds or sunlamps, which can increase the risk of skin cancer.
- Checking your skin: Perform regular skin self-exams to check for any new or changing moles or other skin lesions.
In conclusion, people with brown hair may have a unique genetic susceptibility to skin cancer that is different from that of people with other hair colors.
However, lifestyle and environmental factors also play a role in increasing the risk of skin cancer in people with brown hair.
By taking steps to protect their skin from sun damage and monitoring their skin for any changes, people with brown hair can reduce their risk of developing skin cancer.
Sami’s Take On Are You A Brown-Haired Redhead?
I think that this is a good time for me to quit pretending that can be careless in the sun. I am definitely a brown-haired redhead. My skin is not as pale as a true redhead, but there is definitely all the other characteristics are there.
The sensitivity to the sun. Hair that turns red on the ends when in the sun. Freckles have been around since a very young child.
Flushed skin that sunburns at the drop of a hat. I am glad that we know how to protect our skin now. We know to wear sunscreen every day. The sun hat with the wide brim. The long-sleeve loose-fitting shirt, my sunglasses.
We know that lifestyle changes will make a big difference as well. Limiting sun exposure from 10 AM until 4 PM. Spending outside time in the shade.
I can enjoy my outside time with less risk. It has taken me a long time to realize what has happened to my skin. To be aware of the risk of skin cancer.
Now, I can do better. I can keep improving my skin-protecting habits.
Where are you on your skin cancer journey? Have you moved to some safer skin practices?
Thanks for reading,