A Duke University chemist has found differences in how ultraviolet light affects the photochemistry of human pigments that he says may explain why red-haired people are more prone to skin cancer than those with black hair.
Duke chemistry professor John Simon and his collaborators used a broadly-tunable ultraviolet laser and a special microscope to distinguish between the oxidation potentials of pigments of redheaded and black-haired people. Oxidation potentials measure how likely chemicals are to activate oxygen by taking up electrons.
"We were very interested in determining if there are differences in the ability of the two kinds of human pigments to activate oxygen," Simon said in an interview. "Activating oxygen can produce compounds called radicals that put oxidative stress on cells. Such stress could ultimately lead to cancer and other diseases."
Monte Basgall | EurekAlert!
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