Six things we know about the 'silent' skin cancer redhead gene that doesn't just effect redheads
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Six things we know about the 'silent' skin cancer redhead gene that doesn't just effect redheads

1. Redheads aren't the only ones who carry the redhead gene, scientists at The Sanger Institute have revealed. Many non-red haired people carry what has been dubbed the 'silent' red hair gene that raises their risk of sun-related skin cancer too

2.The research shows that even a single copy of a red hair-associated MC1R gene variant increased the number of mutations in melanoma skin cancer; the most serious form of skin cancer

3. Redheads have two copies of a variant of the MC1R gene which affects the type of melanin pigment they produce, leading to red hair, freckles, pale skin and a strong tendency to burn in the sun

Winners at the Irish Redhead Convention in 2015 in Cork (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images) Winners at the Irish Redhead Convention in 2015 in Cork (Photo by Clodagh Kilcoyne/Getty Images)
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4. The researchers analysed DNA collected from more than 400 people. They found an average of 42 per cent more sun-associated mutations in tumours from people carrying the 'silent' red head gene variant

It isn’t just people with red hair who need to protect themselves from too much sun

5. Dr Julie Sharp, head of health and patient information at Cancer Research UK, said: “This important research explains why red-haired people have to be so careful about covering up in strong sun. It also underlines that it isn’t just people with red hair who need to protect themselves from too much sun. People who tend to burn rather than tan, or who have fair skin, hair or eyes, or who have freckles or moles are also at higher risk

6. Red-headed people make up between one and two percent of the world’s population but about six per cent of the UK population.