Redheads are more prone to melanoma regardless of sunlight exposure

Redheads are more prone to melanoma regardless of sunlight exposure

By: Marc Sorenson, EdD Sunlight Institute–


I have often stated that melanoma is more common in people with type-1 (non-tanning, pale) skin, and that moles correlate to a higher risk of skin cancer regardless of sunlight exposure. Now, new research shows that the genetic makeup that accompanies red hair–not the amount of sun exposure–also correlates to an increased risk of melanoma. Read the article.

So what does this mean? Let’s stop attacking the sun and start addressing the real causes of skin cancers: 1. the presence of many moles on the skin[i], 2. Underexposure to sunlight[ii], 3. Lack of colorful fruits and vegetables in the diet[iii], 4. Drinking alcohol[iv], 5. Consumption of dairy products[v] and 6. Environmental pollutants such as PCBs.[vi] (see below for references). And of course, we have just established red hair as a risk factor for melanoma.

Exposure to sunlight has decreased dramatically in the last century, and sunscreen sales have exploded. During that same time there has been a concomitant exponential increase in melanoma. How then, can anyone in their right mind say that sunlight exposure causes melanoma? GET SERIOUS! The idea that sunlight causes melanoma, of course, is great way to sell sunscreens. Follow the money and you will discover the reasons for the promulgation of the sunlight/melanoma nonsense. Non-burning sunlight is our greatest friend and health enhancer. Check with your doctor before you make any changes in lifestyle.



[i] Green, A, et al. Risk factors for limb melanomas compared with trunk melanomas  in Queensland. Melanoma Res 2012;22;86-91.

[ii] Godar DE, Landry RJ, Lucas AD. Increased UVA exposures and decreased cutaneous Vitamin D3 levels may be responsible for the increasing incidence of melanoma. Med Hypotheses 2009;72:434-43. Garland FC, White MR, Garland CF, Shaw E, Gorham ED. Occupational sunlight exposure and melanoma in the USA Navy. Arch Environ Health 1990; 45:261-67.  Garsaud P, Boisseau-Garsaud AM, Ossondo M, Azaloux H, Escanmant P, Le Mab G. Epidemiology of cutaneous melanoma in the French West Indies (Martinique). Am J Epidemiol 1998;147:66-8.

Le Marchand l, Saltzman S, Hankin JH, Wilkens LR, Franke SJM, Kolonel N. Sun exposure, diet and melanoma in Hawaii Caucasians. Am J Epidemiol 2006;164:232-45.

Armstong K, Kricker A. The epidemiology of UV induced skin cancer. J Photochem Biol 2001;63:8-18

Crombie IK. Distribution of malignant melanoma on the body surface. Br J Cancer 1981;43:842-9.

Crombie IK. Variation of melanoma incidence with latitude in North America and Europe. Br J Cancer 1979;40:774-81.

Weinstock MA, Colditz,BA, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ. Bronstein, BR, Speizer FE. Nonfamilial cutaneous melanoma incidence in women associated with sun exposure before 20 years of age. Pediatrics 1989;84:199-204.

Tucker MA, Goldstein AM. Melanoma etiology: where are we? Oncogene 2003;22:3042-52.

Berwick M, Armstrong BK, Ben-Porat L, Fine J, Kricker A, Eberle C.  Sun exposure and mortality from melanoma. J Nat Cancer Inst 2005;97:95-199.

Veierød MB, Weiderpass E, Thörn M, Hansson J, Lund E, Armstrong B. A prospective study of pigmentation, sun exposure, and risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma in women. J Natl Cancer Inst 2003;95:1530-8.

Oliveria SA, Saraiya M, Geller AC, Heneghan MK, Jorgensen C. Sun exposure and risk of melanoma. Arch Dis Child 2006;91:131-8.

Elwood JM, Gallagher RP, Hill GB, Pearson JCG. Cutaneous melanoma in relation to intermittent and constant sun exposure—the western Canada melanoma study. Int J Cancer 2006;35:427-33

[iii] Hughes, M. et al. Food intake and risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin in a community: The Nambour skin cancer cohort study.  Int J Cancer 2006; online publication ahead of print.

[iv] Millen et al,. Diet and Melanoma in a Case-Control Study. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2004;13(6):1042-51

[v] Hughes, M. et al. Food intake and risk of squamous cell carcinoma of the skin in a community: The Nambour skin cancer cohort study.  Int J Cancer. 2006;15;119:1953-60.

[vi] Gallagher RP, Macarthur AC, Lee TK, et al. Plasma levels of polychlorinated biphenyls and risk of cutaneous malignant melanoma: a preliminary study. Int J Cancer 2011;15;128:1872-80.


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