A Japanese study suggests the greying process of hair may provide cancer protection.

The research says that with age, potentially dangerous colour-producing stem cells called mela­no­cytes die off in hair follicles. There is increased DNA damage in these cells as people get older, but grey hair means the melano­cytes have gone and so can’t pass on cancer-causing mutations.

“If there is any validity to this, it’s great news,” said 53-year-old Brian Burke, the salt-and-peppery thatched Toronto Maple Leafs general manager. “The folks at Grecian Formula may not be too happy. I’m just happy to have this much hair at my age.”

Dr. David Fisher, director of the melanoma program at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, believes the findings from the Tokyo Medical and Dental University team (published June 21 issue of New Scientist magazine) show possibilities for future cancer treatments.

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