“When Homo sapiens left Africa and had to adapt to less sunny climates, there was a mutation in one of the genes responsible for regulating the synthesis of melanin, the MC1R gene, which involved a discoloration of the skin. This discoloration allowed for better absorption of vitamin D, necessary for growth, but it also increased the risk of developing skin cancer in adulthood.
This mutation, called “V60L,” is at present the most common among people from Mediterranean regions such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Israel. It is present in about 10-20% of the population, according to the study carried out by researchers at the Universitat Jaume I and the University of the Basque Country performed on over 1,000 individuals from different areas of Spain.
The V60L mutation is more common in people with light hair and skin tone that, despite being light, tans easily in the summer. This mutation is positive for the climate of the Mediterranean region, as it facilitates the absorption of vitamin D in the winter months, in which the ultraviolet radiation is lower. In the summer months, in which the radiation is greater, the ease to darken the skin pigmentation provides a certain protection. However, the study also revealed that among people with this mutation there is a greater predisposition to skin cancer. This discovery may be useful in the field of medical prevention” (read more).
(Source: Science Daily; top image: Skin Cancer Foundation)