Redheads With Multiple Moles Warned Of High Risk Of Melanoma Following New Research

People with red hair and multiple moles are being warned of their increased likelihood of developing potentially deadly melanoma.

Researchers at the University of Queensland issued the warning to redheads after investigating the precursors of what causes the disease.

They found that people with red hair who had more than 20 large moles have a one-in-four chance of developing potentially deadly melanoma to age 75 -- which takes the lives of around 1,800 Australians every year.

Associate Professor Rick Sturm told 10 daily that people with red hair are two to four times more likely to develop the cancer, while people with multiple moles measuring at least 5mm in diameter were five times more susceptible to the disease.

Image: Getty.

Not only that but people who have a combination of both these factors -- red hair and multiple moles -- were at the highest risk of developing melanoma.

"The two risk factors together and the risk of developing melanoma isn't simply added, it's multiplied," Professor Sturm said.

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The redhead gene

The study also found that people who carry the red hair gene MCR1 -- even if they don’t necessarily have red hair themselves -- have an increased risk if they have a high number of moles.

Yep, that's right -- you can have the redhead gene but not have red hair. You may have strawberry blonde or blonde hair instead.

"It's estimated that 25 percent of the general population carry the gene for red hair," Professor Sturm said.

The only way to find out if you have the redhead gene is via a genetic test.

So there's a need to boost awareness of the increased risk of developing melanoma for those redheads -- or carriers of the redhead gene -- who also have lots of moles.

Melanoma hotspots

Regardless of their hair colour, about 14,000 Australians are diagnosed with melanoma each year making it the third most common cancer in the country.

In 2018, UQ and the Cancer Council debuted a world-first interactive map that pinpoints the types of cancer most prevalent in every state and area of Australia.

Queenslanders are extremely likely to develop melanoma with the sunshine state recording the highest reported cases of melanoma than anywhere else in the country -- and the world.

Image: Australian Cancer Atlas.

Southeast QLD, in particular, is a hotspot with Brisbane’s bayside area of Manly and the Gold Coast's Mermaid Beach recording a rate of more than 102 percent above the national average.

All-in-all, one out of every 16 Queenslander men and one in every 24 women are affected by the cancer.

Northeast New South Wales is also a melanoma hotspot, with Byron Bay claiming the worst rate of melanoma in the country -- an astonishing 135 percent above the national average.

Staying sun safe

Strum and his team suggest those with physical attributes that pose as a higher risk -- such as red hair and 20+ moles -- should monitor skin changes and visit their doctor for skin checks every three to six months.

"By keeping a closer eye on any skin changes in these high-risk individuals, we can improve the chances of early detection of melanoma," he said.

Everyone -- redhead or not -- should be sun safe which includes covering up, seeking shade and wearing sunscreen.

According to a national sunscreen summit held in Brisbane last year, we should apply sunscreen every day when the maximum UV level is forecast to be three or higher.

"Use a teaspoon on each limb, one for your back, one for the front, a teaspoon for your face and neck area. That's five ml for each, and that is quite a bit," said Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO of Cancer Council Australia.

Image: Getty.

READ MORE: Australian Researchers Lead The Fight Against Advanced Melanoma

At the moment the only guide for managing sun exposure is the UV index and Heather Walker, chair of the National Skin Cancer Committee at Cancer Council Australia recommends downloading the SunSmart app. It's free and can save you a lot of grief -- and burnt body parts -- in the warmer months.

In 2018 researchers out of RMIT University developed a paper wristband that could help Aussies monitor their sun exposure.

The band contains a new ultra-violet sensor and can tell you when you've had too much sun or just a healthy dose of vitamin D.

The sensor is in its early stages and needs more testing, but researchers hope it'll be available to the public by the Summer of 2020.

Feature image: Getty.