Researchers using data from the 1,000 Genomes Project as well as samples from different regions of Spain have found a gene variant favoured in South Europeans: the V60L allele, associated with red/blond hair and fair skin. The research indicates the first appearance of the V60L mutation occurred some time after modern humans left Africa but before humans spread throughout Europe. The new data adds more weight to the idea that depigmentation occurred based on humans’ need to synthesise vitamin D in areas of reduced sun light (compared to Africa). Allele V60L is also associated with increased risk of melanoma, the most dangerous of skin cancers.
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Image is from International Redhead Day, when thousands of natural redheads from many countries come together in the city centre of Breda, Netherlands. The summer festival takes place each first weekend of September. Credit: Eric Oaktree