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Red Hair Pigment Might Raise Melanoma Risk: Study

Dermatologists say redheads must take extra care to check skin, avoid sun

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"Redheads should get more frequent body checks," said Downie, a dermatologist based in Montclair, N.J. "If they have no family history of skin cancer, they should still be checked at least twice a year, rather than the annual check we recommend for everyone else. If they have a family history of skin cancer, they should be checked every three months."

This is crucial since melanoma could form even on a part of the body that is never touched by sunlight.

"The location on one's skin of where a melanoma may occur is not necessarily confined to the sun-exposed parts of the skin," Fisher said. "It could occur elsewhere on the body."

Redheads also should practice vigilant sun avoidance, Downie said. They should use a sunscreen with at least SPF 30, and they should reapply it every hour.

They also should consider wearing broad-brimmed hats when outdoors, sticking to the shady side of the sidewalk and even vacationing in mountain areas rather than at the beach.

"Unfortunately with redheads, they have to practice some lifestyle alterations," Downie said. "They should practice even more strict sun avoidance than we originally thought they should."

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