We spoke with the internationally renowned board-certified dermatologist (redhead too!), Dr. Leslie Baumann M.D., to discuss the Mc1R and what it’s all about.
She explains, “There are two types of skin pigment in the skin: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Redheads have more pheomelanin which causes the reddish pigment. Red hair (increased pheomelanin) appears in people with two copies of a mutation in the MC1R (melanocyte-stimulating hormone receptor). Basically- this is a receptor- that when stimulated makes the skin cells (called melanocytes) make more pigment (called melanin).”
This is the same pathway that makes one tan when exposed to the sun. It also causes increased endorphins upon sun exposure which is why you feel so good when out in the sun. This receptor is also activated by the sun which causes a cascade that can result in the development of various forms of skin cancer including the deadly melanoma.
“It is the defect in the MC1R gene that causes red hair, freckling and an increased incidence of melanoma,” says Baumann.
So, redheads beware! Most cannot tan and redheads are at a higher risk of skin cancer, so just forget about laying out in the sun. Embrace your skin, wear sunscreen and protective clothing.
Rock it like a Redhead!
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