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Mum of red headed baby and kids read this

iny chemical differences in how our skin reacts to ultraviolet light could explain why redheads are more likely to suffer skin cancer, say US scientists.

The answer lies in the skin and hair pigment melanin, the team from Duke University, North Carolina, believe.

People with ginger hair have pigment that is chemically different from that of people with darker hair, they found.

This difference might explain why people with red hair burn easily and are prone to sun damage.

Pigment clue

Professor John Simon from Duke University will present the findings at the 230th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Washington DC at the end of August.

His team, along with colleagues from at the Funjita Health University in Japan, used a special microscope and an ultraviolet (UV) laser to see what was happening to the pigment-containing structures in hair, called melanosomes, from redheads and black-haired people.

They measured something called the oxidation potential of the red and black melanosomes.

This is how likely chemicals are to activate oxygen by taking up electrons.

Such changes are known to be linked to cell damage and cancer.

They found that the red melanosomes were much more reactive than the black melanosomes.

Likely trigger

This would suggest that it takes less of a trigger, namely UV rays in sunlight, to make potentially harmful cellular changes in people with red hair.

Professor Simon explained: "Activating oxygen can produce compounds called radicals that put oxidative stress on cells. Such stress could ultimately lead to cancer and other diseases."

He said his work "links the red pigments to possible oxidative stress through their electrochemical properties."

Dr Steven Rotter, dermatologist and spokesman for the US Skin Cancer Foundation, said: "This helps to clarify at a molecular level something we have known for years.

"We know that people with red hair are less protected inately because of the pigment in their skin but we had not know exactly why."

He said that not only did people with red hair have less protective pigment than people with darker hair, but the pigment they did have appeared to be more likely to react to produce harmful agents associated with cancer.

Ed Yong, science information officer for Cancer Research UK, said: "It is well known that red or fair-haired people have a higher risk of skin cancer, and this study provides us with a possible explanation for this."

He advised people with red hair and fair skin to take particular care to avoid sunburn and to protect their skin by avoiding the sun in the middle of the day, seeking shade and covering up with a T-shirt and sunglasses and using sunscreen of at least factor 15


Asked by feralkitten at 11:05 AM on May. 30, 2011 in General Parenting

Level 18 (5,186 Credits)
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Answers (11)
  • I have red headed twins and they will burn like crazy within minutes if I'm not careful so I always stay on top pf sun block. People think I'm over protective and say stupid things like "a little sun won't hurt" etc. Makes me roll my eyes.

    Answer by Luuckymommy at 3:08 PM on May. 30, 2011

  • Thank you for sharing. Two of my children are redheads :)

    Answer by VintageWife at 11:11 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • Interesting. My DDs are blond and brown up but don't burn. My Ds however, is a red head and looks like a lobster within 10 minutes of full sun contact.

    Answer by cueballsmom at 11:16 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • i think its a good thing for every mon to know . as i dont think ment people think about the fact just cause you got red hair you maybe at risk
    i'm setting up a group for red headed mum's and kids

    Comment by feralkitten (original poster) at 11:16 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • Both of my nieces have red hair. One is fair skinned and burns easily. One has more of an olive skin and rarely burns. The one that burns is more of a strawberry blonde, the one that does not has very red hair. We are still trying to figure that one out!

    Answer by layh41407 at 11:26 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • its also got to do with the eyes my boys got blue so it ment to be a double risk

    Comment by feralkitten (original poster) at 11:27 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • Interesting. I have dark auburn hair but I have never burnt. I have a more of a golden color since I am half hispanic. I wonder if this study goes for that as well.

    Answer by gemgem at 11:44 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • the studdy was dune in the uk i dono if that makes a dif

    Comment by feralkitten (original poster) at 11:47 AM on May. 30, 2011

  • The warning the doctor gives is pretty much the warning for everyone. With children that burn easily you may have to be much more careful. Regular clothing may offer less than SPF 15. With children that burn easily you may need special clothing with SPF. One of my sons could get burned in the shade with sunscreen on during times other than the middle of the day.

    Just because you don't get burned doesn't mean you aren't going to get skin cancer. There are skin cancers that develop in places that have never seen sun. Not all sunscreen is the same and most of the big names in sunscreen aren't good for kids. See the EWG website and their lists of good sunscreens for more info.

    Answer by Gailll at 1:04 PM on May. 30, 2011

  • Already knew that.

    Answer by purpleducky at 1:08 PM on May. 30, 2011