Red heads, take care!
By Mae Luzod
According to a study conducted by cancer biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, David Fisher, people with freckled, fair skin and red hair have been found to have a mutation in the MCIR gene which causes them to produce a different type of melanin called pheomelanin, which is less effective at protecting skin from UV damage compared to the type of melanin found in people with darker complexions. Additionally, a study recently published in Nature also revealed that the risk for skin cancers, especially melanoma, also applies to areas not exposed to UV and that melanoma can develop in places not normally exposed to sunlight or UV radiation.
For red heads, cancer causing-free radical damage can occur in skin not exposed to UV radiation. This different type of melanin also makes red heads susceptible to a host of other health problems. Red heads appear to be 90% “high risk” to develop Parkinson’s Disease, 30% higher risk for endometriosis (a painful gynecological disorder), and possess a stronger sensitivity to pain, requiring more anesthesia during surgery.
What does this mean for red heads?
Basically, red heads must be very diligent with their sun protection at all times. Even if you’re not in the sun at all, you can still develop free radical damage in your skin which causes aging, or in worst case scenario, skin cancer. Here are five important tips for red heads:
- Learn the ABCDEs of melanoma. Click here for the Skin Cancer Foundation’s ABCDEs of melanoma.
- Do monthly self skin exams and see your dermatologist if any suspicious spots develop.
- Have an annual skin exam done by your dermatologist.
- Be 100% proficient at your sun protection. Stay away from tanning beds and do not lie out at the beach.
- Wear a Sun Protection Hat, sit under the shade of a tree or an umbrella, always wear sunscreen and sun glasses, and avoid sun exposure during hours of 10AM – 3PM when UV rays are at their most powerful.