Those carrying a melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R), also known as the ‘ginger gene’ responsible for red hair, could be at double the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. This is made more terrifying by the fact that this is regardless of whether you’re a redhead or not and is prior to any UV exposure all.
The research comes out of a scientific study by JAMA Dermatology, who set out “to study the role of the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) and melanoma risk independently from UVR”, according to their study notes.
This is scary, scary stuff, particularly as it is estimated that around 40% of the UK’s population carry the MC1R gene. Put simply, when a ginger child is born, it is because both parents carry the MC1R gene, so this new research affects a hefty number of people.
Until now, similar genetic testing had only been conducted on mice, but JAMA’s study involved 1791 adults. Of this number, 991 people had previously been diagnosed with melanoma and 800 without. The results showed that carriers of MC1R variants were at increased melanoma risk independent of their sun exposure.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, which is a cancerous growth that develops when there is unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells most likely caused by UV exposure.
Further studies into the causes of melanoma development in the individuals of JAMA’s study is required.