Aside from the bright and awesome color of their hair, there are more reasons why redheads stand out from the crowd. Comprising only between 1% and 2% of the world’s population, gingers are unique in a way that they possess two copies of a recessive variation of the MC1R gene, which is the one responsible for our skin and hair color. Aside from the red hair color, this genetic mutation also causes gingers to have freckles and pale skin. But that is not all – according to scientific research, there are a number of ways having red hair can influence a person’s health, from their sensitivity to pain to how fast they age. Here are some of them:
5) The risk of melanoma are higher for gingers.
Although it is a widely known fact that gingers are more susceptible to sunburns due to their pale skin, a 2012 study discovered that there is actually a link between ginger DNA and skin cancer. But that does not mean that non-redheads are safe from the dreaded disease. Carrying a single copy of the recessive MC1R variant can also lead to a number of mutations linked to the deadliest skin cancer, melanoma. This just shows how important it is to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays, especially if you are a ginger.
4) Gingers are better at making vitamin D.
The great thing about gingers is that their bodies are able to manufacture healthy doses of vitamin D without much help from the sun. People with pale skin are much better at synthesizing the D vitamin, which is essential for bone health and a healthy immune system. Experts believe that this unique capability gives gingers the genetic upper hand in low light climates, as they are able to manufacture vitamin D in gloomy conditions more than people with darker hair or skin color.
3) Gingers have a lower pain threshold.
According to research, gingers can experience pain more intensely than non-redheads, and as a result, require more anesthesia than non-redheads for surgery. Although the reason is not yet entirely clear, one theory suggests that the ginger DNA causes the neural activity in the brain’s periaqueductal grey (that part of the brain that controls pain sensations) to heighten.
2) Gingers may appear older than they really are.
According to a Dutch research, adults who possess two copies of the MC1R gene variant typically appeared two years older than other non-redhead adults of the same age. And the reason was not because gingers develop premature wrinkles (which makes sense since they are more prone to sun damage), researchers have found that the ginger DNA was associated to other signs of aging like sagging skin on the jawline and thinning lips. This suggests that redheads’ genes’ are affecting facial aging through some unknown route.
1) Ginger males are less likely to develop prostate cancer.
According to a research published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2013, gingers have half the risk of developing prostate cancer as men with light brown hair. Researchers who kept track of more than 20,000 men in a long term study have found out that less than 1% of gingers have developed prostate cancer, compared to the 40% of men with light brown hair. Although there is no real answer as to why this is the case, researchers speculated that it might have something to do with vitamin D.