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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • Dr. Murray Feingold: All about redheads

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  • Approximately 3 percent of people in the United States are redheads. To become a redhead, you need two recessive genes — one gene from each parent. Neither parent needs to have red hair to have children with red hair, but mother and father must carry the gene for red hair.
    These genes are more common in individuals with Scottish and Irish backgrounds.
    It is well known that redheads are at a higher risk of developing melanomas and other types of skin cancers, but there are other interesting medical facts concerning redheads.
    Redheads require more anesthesia to reduce pain than non-redheads. In a recent study, redheads required 20 percent more anesthesia than non-redheads. They are also more sensitive to heat and cold.
    There appears to be a two-fold increase in the rate of Parkinson’s disease in redheads. This is apparently due to a mutation in a certain gene that is present in redheads.
    On a more positive note, redheads maintain their natural hair color longer than do individuals with other hair colors. And, its been reported that they do not develop gray hair. The hair turns to a sandy-blonde color and ultimately white.
    Some years ago, there was a report that redheads would soon become extinct. However, there is no scientific evidence that substantiates this claim. Other claims have been made about redheads, such as they have a “hot temper.” Although there may be some scientific articles on this subject, I could not find any.
    It is believed by some people that individuals with red hair are more likely to be subjected to bleeding problems or hemorrhaging. However, there is no scientific evidence to substantiate this claim.
    But it is true that the hair of individuals subjected to severe malnutrition, such as in a famine, may turn red. This condition is known as kwashiorkor.
    Another medical fact is that there is a rare form of albinism that is associated, not only with red hair, but also red skin.
    Perhaps this is a lot more information than you would like to know about redheads, but it is interesting.
    Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.

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