…I am just concerned that she needs to stay out of the sun because being a redhead she is at high risk for skin cancer:
Fair-skinned redheads are known to have increased risk of developing melanoma. Now researchers may have pinpointed one of the reasons: variations in a gene called MC1R. This gene assists in producing melanin pigment to help protect the skin against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays (UV). However, some variations (variants) of MC1R are less protective than others. Two recent studies, from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne and Western General Hospital in England, indicate that red hair, fair skin, and increased melanoma risk may all be linked to such variants of MC1R.
Each person’s skin reacts differently to UV, depending on the amount and type of melanin pigment in the skin. Two basic types of melanin are found to varying degrees in human skin: black eumelanin and red pheomelanin. Black Eumelanin, which is most abundant in dark-skinned populations, may offer considerable protection against UV. Red pheomelanin, however, is far less UV-protective and may actually contribute to UV damage; it can be broken down easily by UV, forming “free radical” molecules that may contribute to skin cancer. Redheaded individuals tend to have large amounts of pheomelanin in their hair and skin, and/or a decreased ability to make eumelanin. This could explain why they tend to tan poorly and are at high risk of sun damage.
The proportions of pheomelanin and eumelanin in each individual are controlled by a hormone called melanocyte-stimulating hormone or MSH. MSH thus plays an important role in how the skin responds to sun exposure. The hormone acts through a receptor gene called the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R). In their initial study, the British investigators sought to determine if any variations in the gene sequence of MC1R might be associated with both lighter skin pigmentation and lighter hair color. They found that certain variants of MC1R were indeed closely linked with both red hair color and fair skin that tended to sunburn rather than tan. The researchers studied 30 redheads with a history of sunburns and 30 dark-haired people who tanned easily. Variants in the MC1R gene associated with pheomelanin were found in 21 of the redheads, but none of the dark-haired subjects.
OK, so maybe I did it so that I could post a picture of Lindsay Lohan in a bikini. But this is a very serious public service announcement. If you are redheaded or Lindsay Lohan, you need to call me so that I can advise you about your skin cancer risk.
(This is in the medicine category by the way because it is about MEDICINE. I will have none of you naysayers criticizing the science in this post.)
UPDATE: I am amused to death that this is the post where I get all the comments. Where were you all when I was writing tomes about genetic heritability of behavior?
I always knew that some day I was going to have to sell out; I just never realized that this would be how.