High risk of skin cancer for redheads without sun

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People with red hair are more likely to suffer from dangerous black skin cancer

Red-haired people have an increased risk of fatal skin cancer. This was the result of an international study. However, as previously assumed, UV radiation should not be responsible for this, but rather a skin pigment that promotes the development of malignant tumors.

Skin pigment favors the development of black skin cancer
So far, UV radiation has been the main risk factor for the development of skin cancer. According to an international research group, this does not apply to redheads with pale skin. Rather, a certain skin pigment is responsible for the development of the particularly dangerous black skin cancer. "In contrast to other skin cancers, malignant melanomas also develop on areas of the skin that are never exposed to the sun," explains pathologist Jochen Lennerz, who was involved in the study. Accordingly, good sun protection is not enough for redheads. The researchers published their results in the specialist magazine "Nature".

Redheads need special preventive measures to protect against skin cancer. People with red hair and particularly light skin covered with freckles produce a lot of the red-yellow pigment phaeomelanin. Due to a gene variant, this is formed in the skin of redheads and, in contrast to black-brown eumelanin, which forms darker skin for sun protection, hardly protects against UV radiation. For this reason, scientists had previously assumed that melanoma would only benefit from inadequate protection against solar radiation.

Using experiments with mice that had either dark or reddish fur and albino mice, the researchers found that fatal skin cancer was most common in red-haired animals. The pigment phaeomelanin is said to be responsible for this. The scientists emphasize that UV protection remains the most important measure for the prevention of skin cancer, but further prevention strategies must be developed for particularly vulnerable people such as redheads.

Black skin cancer is particularly dangerous In contrast to white skin cancer, the chances of curing malignant melanoma are only good if diagnosed early. Black skin cancer is known to spread metastases across the lymphatic and bloodstream at an early stage of the disease. The patients do not die of skin cancer itself, but of tumors that are caused by scattering on organs. Black skin cancer is by far the most dangerous type of skin cancer and the most common fatal skin disease worldwide. If the metastases spread, around 90 percent of the patients die within five years.

The number of new cases of black as well as less dangerous white skin cancer is increasing worldwide. The main risk factor is UV radiation.

White skin cancer mainly occurs on the face, hands or neck. Although white skin cancer is usually not fatal, this type of cancer can also be permanently harmful. The cancer cells could grow through the entire tissue, so that large areas must be removed during the operation, explains Petra Boukamp from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). If the face is affected, it is often severely disfigured after medical interventions, the expert continues. Scarring is inevitable after the operations.

If white skin cancer is recognized in time, various medications, such as ointments, can help successfully. Good sun protection is essential to prevent skin cancer. In addition, legally insured persons from the age of 35 are entitled to a free skin cancer screening. (ag)

Also read:
Dangerous black skin cancer
Red spots can indicate light skin cancer
Skin cancer: Dangerous spring sunshine with bald head
White skin cancer is increasing rapidly

Image: Sabine Meyer / pixelio.de

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