The babies born with olive skin are more likely to be lighter skinned than normal.
It’s a phenomenon that’s been observed in mice, where olive skin can be seen as a way to protect against skin cancer.
Olive skin is the skin type most affected by the human melanoma gene, which causes hair loss, brown spots and sunburn.
“I’ve seen a lot of research on skin cancer and olive skin and I don’t think there is a cure for it,” Dr Alix D’Souza, from the National Institute for Health Research in London, said.
The researchers found that a gene mutation in the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R) of the skin is a trigger for the birth of olive skin.
They say the mutation has been linked to skin cancer in mice but the mechanism remains unknown.
Dr D’Ath said it was likely that olive skin is caused by a gene that also affects the immune system.
“If it has this receptor, it can regulate how we react to certain viruses and certain allergens and then it will cause these abnormal cells to grow and it can trigger melanoma cells to invade and spread,” she said.
“It’s the same mechanism that’s responsible for melanoma.
People with melanoma can be born with skin with a light skin tone that’s very similar to the baby’s.
In other words, it’s a very easy way to hide the fact that you have melanoma.”
The findings will be published in the journal Nature Genetics.
Dr Dampier’s team are also looking at other genes involved in melanoma growth.
She said they had identified one gene that was involved in the expression of the genes that cause skin cancer growth, but did not yet know how it works.
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