An redhead Afghan boy walks past a red door at the Nasaji Bagrami refugee camp in Kabul. Scientists have got to the root of red hair.

London - Scientists have got to the root of red hair.

They believe that the ‘ginger gene’ evolved around 50 000 years ago as modern man left Africa for less sunny climes.

Its effect was also to make the skin lighter, making it better at using the sun’s rays to generate vitamin D, which has numerous benefits for health.

The Spanish researchers looked to see how common a gene found in redheads was across Europe. It remains a common gene even among southern Europeans because two copies of it are need to produce red hair.

However, the study, reported in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, also linked the ‘ginger gene’ to skin cancer.

Its survival can be explained if it is assumed that the cancer does not typically develop until old age, meaning redheads can pass their vitamin D-generating DNA to the next generation. - Daily Mail