The Documentary Podcast
Ingenious: The ginger gene and breast cancer gene
A particular version of the ginger gene MC1R underpins the fiery hair and freckled complexion of redheads, famed and feared in many cultures. But it is also linked to increased pain sensitivity and skin cancer risk. So where did it come from? And are redheads really endangered? As far back as the 19th Century, doctors realised that some types of cancer seemed to run in families, but it was not until the last decades of the 20th Century that scientists started to pin down the genetic culprits. Faults in two of these genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, significantly increase the chances of developing breast, ovarian or prostate cancer.