The following are some of the top health risks for redheads:
- Melanoma: Red hair and fair skin is a disastrous combination when it comes to the risk factors for melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. Because redheads lack significant amounts of eumelanin, their skin is exposed to more ultraviolet (UV) radiation, causing more damage from the sun’s harmful rays. Research conducted at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine note that the red hair-causing mutation of MC1R also may be linked to the absence of a different gene, PTEN, which usually exists in tandem with MC1R and suppresses tumor growth.
- Skin Cancer: Not only are redheads at risk for Melanoma, specifically, but they are also at increased risk for general skin cancers because of the ease of which damage occurs to their skin with overexposure. Duke University researchers compared melanin reactions to UV light exposure in people with all hair colors, and it took far less energy to create the cancer-causing free radicals in people with red hair.
- Parkinson’s Disease: According to a Harvard study, redheads have a nearly 50% higher risk for developing Parkinson’s, a neurological disorder which causes increasing difficulties with balance and coordination. While researchers aren’t entirely sure why this disease is connected to redheads, there is evidence that it is related to a mutation in a related gene that is known to deliver a higher risk for Parkinson’s.
- Pain Sensitivity: According to an article in the journal Anesthesiology, Cleveland Clinic anesthesiologist Daniel Sessler, MD, notes that redheads are more susceptible to physical pain than their darker-hued counterparts. They can require up to 20% more anesthesia in certain applications because they have been found to be more resistant to pain medications such as the local anesthetic Novocaine. The culprit of this pain receptor sensitivity is thought to be the same one that elevates risk for Parkinson’s.