There is a gene called the melanocortin-1 receptor (MCR-1) gene. This has been shown to strongly affect a person’s skin colour and their ability to tan. Certain forms of the MCR-1 gene are strongly linked with having red hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. These people have lots of moles, cannot tan and often burn and freckle in the sun. These people have an increased risk of skin cancers compared to the people with other forms of the MCR-1 gene.
There are lots of other genes that may be involved in tanning as well. Research into genes like the MCR-1 gene is important because tanning is linked to the risk of skin cancers. So if we can find out ways of testing people’s genes to see if people have certain variations of this gene we could help people find out their risk of developing skin cancer.