Are Redheads Skin at Higher Risk from The Sun UV Radiation?

Posted by ecostinger on 3rd Apr 2017

Your skin pigment is what actually determines the color of your hair as well as your skin tone. This particular pigment is normally influenced by melanocortin – 1 (MC1R), which is a gene receptor. If you are a redhead, a mutation in this given gene receptor may place you at an increased risk of skin cancer, as it usually expresses itself in red hair and pale skin. This risk factor can be especially heightened when you expose your skin to the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. According to a 2013 scientific study, redheads tare at a higher risk for contracting melanoma. Melanoma, for those who might be in the dark, is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Redheads are more prone to UV rays induced skin damage

Wenyi Wei, the co-senior author of the above named study, has gone on to explain the findings they derived. These findings point out to a 'feasible’ molecular mechanism as to why people with red hair are susceptible to UV skin damage. Wei, who is an associate professor of pathology at Beth-Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, asserted that redheads harboring MC1R mutations are more prone to UV rays skin damage than darker skinned individuals.

Wei and her colleagues did a number of scientific experiments on mice and cells in laboratory dishes, which revealed that, without the mutation of this gene receptor, it usually binds itself to PTEN.
PTEN happens to be a known tumor suppressing gene, and assists in protecting against cellular alterations that promote cancer. However, when MC1R undergoes mutation, as is normally the case among people with red hair, it will not bind itself to PTEN. Consequently, upon exposure to the sun’s detrimental UV radiation, PTEN will get destroyed at a much higher rate. In turn, this will fast track the growth of pigment producing melanocytes cells, which ultimately results in skin cancer.

What is the ideal redhead skin protection regimen against exposure to the sun’s UV rays radiation?

Like it has been noted above, people with red hair are indeed more likely to get 'sunburned’ than those with other hair color. In most cases redheads normally have sensitive skin, because their skin is actually thinner, and their nerves and blood vessels are much nearer the epidermis. This is why factors such as temperature and weather can easily trigger redness along with irritation in these individuals. When it comes to the best redhead skin protection regimen against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends wearing a sunscreen of not less than SPF 30, whenever outdoors. Also, they recommend you always make sure you wear appropriate sun protective garments and try to stay in the shade, as much as possible. Finally, they advice that you always be on the lookout for spots, which can indicate skin cancer, ideally after each month.


It is important to note that Wenyi Wei and colleagues’ study that was published in the Journal Molecular Cell, was only done on mice and cells in laboratory dishes. So, more research is certainly necessary to reveal whether a similar mechanism can really occur in humans.

when outdoor or swimming seek shade whenever possible, apply sunscreen on exposed skin and more importantly wear uv protective clothing or full body swimwear when swimming.