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Medicine & Healthcare, Wiley-Blackwell

Hair Pigment Makes Red Heads Vulnerable to Cancer Without UV Light

For years cancer scientists have believed that it is poor protection from UV light which puts people with pale skin and red hair at greater risk of cancer. However, new research explored in BioEssaysclaims the synthesis of the pigment, called pheomelanin, which gives red hair its color, is carcinogenic, independent of UV light.

The study found that pheomelanin synthesis is linked with increased oxidative stress in the skin. The team believes this may in turn cause potentially cariogenic oxidative DNA damage. Alternatively, pheomelanin synthesis may use up the cells’ antioxidant stores, leaving the cells’ nucleus more vulnerable.