How does pheomelanin synthesis contribute to melanomagenesis?

Two distinct mechanisms could explain the carcinogenicity of pheomelanin synthesis



Recently, we reported that melanoma risk in redheads is linked not only to pale skin, but also to the synthesis of the pigment – called pheomelanin – that gives red hair its color. We demonstrated that pheomelanin synthesis is associated with increased oxidative stress in the skin, yet we have not uncovered the chemical pathway between the molecule pheomelanin and the DNA damage that drives melanoma formation. Here, we hypothesize two possible pathways. On one hand, pheomelanin might generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) that directly or indirectly cause oxidative DNA damage. On the other hand, pheomelanin synthesis might consume cellular antioxidant stores and make the cell nucleus more vulnerable to other endogenous ROS. Uncovering the mechanistic pathway between pheomelanin and oxidative DNA damage will be an important step in developing strategies to lower melanoma risk in redheads.