If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re debating between chopping off your locks or keeping them long, consider this: Having longer hair may decrease your risk of getting melanoma on your head and neck, according to a new study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
Researchers used data collected for the French regional melanoma registry Observatoire des MÃƒÂ©lanomes de la RÃƒÂ©gion Champagne-Ardenne (OMECHA) and examined 279 individual cases of melanoma. Analysis of the cases showed two different melanoma distributions of the head and neck that most likely are due to sun exposure while driving: peripheral (which occurs on the scalp, forehead, ears, and neck) and central (which occurs on the eyelids, nose, cheeks, and chin). For men, 57 percent of melanoma cases occurred in their peripheral regions and 43 percent happened in their central region. Women only saw 21 percent of melanoma cases in their peripheral region, though, and 79 percent of melanoma cases in their central region. The findings suggest that women have more cases of central melanoma because their peripheral areas are more protected by their hair, says Candice Lesage, MD, dermatologist, lead study author.
A windshield may protect skin from UVB rays, which are responsible for sunburns, but UVA rays, which have longer wavelengths, penetrate the glass and can harm your skin. Though participantsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ specific hairstyles werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t recorded, women tend to have longer hair, which can protect their peripheral skin regions, leaving mostly the central area exposed to sunlight. Because men typically have shorter hair, both their peripheral and central regions are left vulnerable to UV rays. Hair can act as a barrier that prevents sunlight from reaching the skinÃ¢â‚¬”more so for people with darker, thicker hairÃ¢â‚¬”similar to how clothes can provide UV coverage for your body.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The more of your skin thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s covered by your hair, the more protected you are,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Jessica Wu, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern-California, who was not part of the study. Keep in mind: Even if you grow your hair out, your scalp can still be exposed to harmful rays where you part your hair or where your hair is naturally thinner. For extra protectionÃ¢â‚¬”particularly if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re rocking short hairÃ¢â‚¬”slather on the sunscreen and wear a hat, says Wu. While thicker lotions can be messy, a gel or foam sunscreen shouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mess with your style.
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