Fair skin is associated with increased risk of skin cancer. However, recent animal studies reveal that factors other than UV radiations are involved in increasing the risk of melanoma in fair-skinned people with red hair.
Dr. David Fisher, chief of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and his team had previously experimented with genetically modified mice and found that mice with pheomelanin, pigment responsible for red hair, still had high incidence of melanoma even in the absence of UV radiations.
AdvertisementThis finding prompted the researchers to look further into the chemical mechanisms involved with pheomelanin in inducing cancer.
Researchers analyzed the biochemical reactions involved in the synthesis of pheomelanin and found two possible mechanisms, which could trigger cancer. Pheomelanin was found to promote the formation of reactive oxygen species, resulting in oxidative stress on the cells and DNA damage which in turn could lead to formation of cancer cells.
It was also noted that pheomelanin synthesis required cysteine, a protein found in many cells. Scientists suspect that this could deplete the cysteine-based antioxidants from the cells, thus making the cells prone to carcinogenesis.
Authors note that these two mechanisms may be dependent on each other and require further studies to identify the exact mechanisms involved in cancer triggering process of pheomelanin. It could immensely help fair skinned and red haired people in taking the correct precautionary steps in preventing skin cancer.
Researchers conclude that these findings might help in better understanding melanoma and developing preventive treatments. Meanwhile the authors encourage fair skinned with red hair to have themselves checked frequently for melanoma and avoid high exposure to sun.
Two distinct mechanisms could explain the carcinogenicity of pheomelanin synthesis:Ann M. Morgan*, Jennifer Lo, David E. Fisher:DOI: 10.1002/bies.201300020