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Red Heads May be Genetically Predisposed to Melanoma

min read

By Emily Lockhart

Skin CancerIf you have red hair and fair skin the amount of sunscreen you wear might not matter—the reality is that you may be genetically disposed to melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.

Just ask TSN Radio host, Gareth Wheeler, who’s been fighting melanoma for the past 7-years.  Wheeler said a “mark” on his lower left leg lead and the melanoma-related death of long-time TSN producer Paul McLean prompted a medical exam that ended with a melanoma diagnosis that had already spread to Wheeler’s lymph system.

“I’m fighting melanoma as best as I can,” said the 32-year-old, “I’m using alternate natural therapies and [even though] I haven’t read the study…I honestly think its part genetics and part sun and I really think it’s partially due to the environment around us, the food that we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink. I really believe it’s a combination.”

Dr. David Fisher, study lead and cancer biologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, discovered a genetic mutation linked to redheaded, fair-skinned people. This pheomelanin (or “red pigment”) found in their skin leads to a chance of developing melanoma.

The study researched a group of mice with benign moles and three varied skin pigments categorized as:

  • Olive
  • Albino
  • Ginger

Fisher found that half of the “ginger” mice developed melanoma prior to e their exposure to UV light.

“There is something [unique] about the redhead genetic background that is behaving in a carcinogenic fashion independent of UV (ultraviolent light),” said Fisher. “Sun screen doesn’t have the impact on melanoma as we would wish.”

Researchers urge those with red hair and fair skin to protect their skin during sun exposure, but also to be aware of their genetic predisposition to the deadly skin cancer.


Source: The Star

Emily Lockhart


Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.

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