A study at the Institute of Cancer Research in the United Kingdom has revealed that humans could have developed dark skin over a million years ago only to protect themselves from skin cancer.
"Dark or black skin lowers the risk of ultra-violet radiation induced skin cancer by several orders of magnitude," said Mel Greaves, a professor at the Institute of Cancer Research in London.
He added that deaths caused due to skin cancer may have triggered the need of dark skin pigments.
Studies have revealed that up to 80 per cent of black people who suffer from albinism in Africa near the equator develop skin cancer before age 30. Regions near the equator receive high UV radiation.
In Albinism, a genetic problem, people are not able to make the black or brown pigment melanin.
Professor Greaves said such people in sub-Saharan Africa almost universally die of skin cancer and that too at an early age. He said the same phenomenon is observed in cases outside Africa also.
Most scientists are of the opinion that black skin developed in early humans because eumelanin found in this type of skin has the ability to absorb ultraviolet radiation.
It was found that UV affects the nucleotides of chromosomes in UV-damaged cells of white-skinned people. On the other hand, those with dark skin get this cancer to a small extent and usually on the less pigmented soles and palms.
Albinos are found in every type of animal and experiments have proved that they suffer from high rates of melanoma, a kind of skin cancer.
The analysis was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.