An international 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.
The discovery sheds new light on our understanding of the genetic complexity underpinning variations in human pigmentation and could advance our knowledge of conditions linked to pigmentation, such as skin, testicular, prostate and ovarian cancers.
Out of the new 124 genes, more than 100 were not previously known to influence pigmentation, the study showed.
"The genetic study on pigmentation will improve our understanding of diseases like melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer," said lead author Tim Spector, Professor at King's College London.
Moreover, the findings, published in the journal Nature Genetics, are also relevant for forensic sciences, the researchers said.
"Finding these new hair colour genes is also important for further increasing the accuracy of hair colour prediction from DNA traces in future forensic applications, which can help to find unknown perpetrators of crime," explained co-lead author Manfred Kayser Professor at the Erasmus University Rotterdam in Netherlands.
For the study, the team analysed DNA data from almost 300,000 people of European descent, together with their self-reported hair colour information.
The results showed that, when it comes to European ancestry, nature prefers blonde women and brunette men.
"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," Spector said.