Redheads with pale skin may have more than the sun to worry about for their increased risk of skin cancer.

New research has revealed a pigment, which gives hair a red hue, also increases the risk of melanoma even without exposure to the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays.

People with pale skin, red hair, freckles and an inability to tan often have trouble producing the black-brown pigment called eumelanin.

Instead, they produce the red-yellow pigment called pheomelanin, which has weak abilities to shield them from UV rays.

But international melanoma expert Dr. David Fisher, from Massachusetts General Hospital, has found that it's not just poor protection from UV rays in these people that increases the risk of melanoma.

His research, reported in the prestigious journal Nature, found a high incidence of skin cancers in mice with red hair traits, even without known causes of  melanoma including UV exposure.

Click here for more from The Herald Sun.