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You Could Be A ‘Secret' Redhead, And It's Putting You At Risk For Skin Cancer

For the last two months, you've undoubtedly gotten tired of endless articles advising you to wear sunscreen and reapply regularly. At this point, the internet might as well be your mother, anxiously packing up for a day trip to the local overcrowded beach.

But, researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute just announced there's an even more crucial reason for you to cover up and sit underneath an umbrella. You could be a “hidden” redhead.

It's not as cool as being a covert FBI agent or anything, but it's still important. This secret identity is putting you at a 42 percent higher risk of gene mutation, which can lead to cancer.

The idea is this: If your parents both carry the MC1R allele gene (flashback to high school genetics class, here), you'll end up with the brilliant ginger hair and pale skin of redheads everywhere. Obviously, you'll be more susceptible to sunburn and will spend the rest of your life quietly shivering in small patches of shade.

But, if only one parent has the MC1R allele, you'll end up with dark or blonde hair, BBC reports. That particular genetic variant will be buried away somewhere in your coiling DNA. If you develop melanoma, the effects of that “silent” gene are comparable to two additional decades worth of sun exposure, in terms of cancerous developments.

So, should you start panicking? Not yet, researchers say. They plan to study MC1R further in an attempt to determine if just one copy of the gene can really ruin your life the way two can. After all, redheads represent only 1 to 2 percent of the world's population, but 16 percent of melanoma sufferers. Be careful out there.

Whether you're a strawberry blonde or just a strawberry-tinted person, make sure you're slathering on sunscreen (I recommend Supergoop or Paula's Choice, but it's personal preference).


What Happens To Your Body In The Sun

Citations: Hidden red hair gene a skin cancer risk (BBC)

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Emily Arata

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Emily Arata is a Women's Editor raised in the Twin Cities. She graduated from Fordham University in the Bronx and previously wrote for First We Feast. She writes about the unlikely ways in which millennials connect with one another.
Emily Arata is a Women's Editor raised in the Twin Cities. She graduated from Fordham University in the Bronx and previously wrote for First We Feast. She writes about the unlikely ways in which millennials connect with one another.

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