An global team of scientists have identified 124 genes that play a major role in determining human hair colour variation, a finding that may pave way for better understanding of conditions linked to pigmentation like vitiligo and skin cancer. "We found that women have significantly fairer hair than men, which reflects how important cultural practices and sexual preferences are in shaping our genes and biology".
The researchers who pinpointed the origins of hair hue said their findings could improve understanding of health conditions linked to pigmentation, including skin, testicular, prostate and ovarian cancers.
The genes that influence hair color also affect other types of cancer, while other pigment genes influence the risk of a person developing Crohn's disease and other bowel diseases. "As the largest ever genetic study on pigmentation, it will improve our understanding of diseases like melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer", said study co-lead author Tim Spector, a professor at King's College London.
"Our work helps us to understand what causes human diversity in appearance by showing how genes involved in pigmentation subtly adapted to external environments and even social interactions during our evolution", said Spector. The new findings are also relevant for forensic sciences.
Women are more likely to have blonde hair than men, according to the largest study so far into genes and hair colour.
The researchers analysed the DNA of nearly 300,000 people of European descent from data supplied by UK Biobank, at-home genetic-testing service 23andMe Inc, the International Visible Trait Genetics Consortium and their study partners.
They chose people of European descent due to their variety in hair colours.
The data was supplied by the UK Biobank, American DNA testing company 23andMe and the International Visible Trait Genetics Consortium and their study partners in the Netherlands, Australia and Italy.
Professor Spector added: 'This work will impact several fields of biology and medicine.
This comes after research released last January suggested hair transplants cure migraines.
It is unclear how hair transplants prevent migraines, however, it may be linked to the surgery destroying nerve endings in the scalp, reducing signals that trigger such pain.