The Genetic Basis of Hair and Eye Color in Canadians of European Ancestry

Principal Investigator: Dr. Esteban Parra

Affiliation: University of Toronto at Mississauga

Start Year: 2018

Hair and eye color (pigmentation) variation are primarily determined by our genes, and the environment has barely any impact. Pigmentation is primarily influenced by two types of melanin: eumelanin, which is a brown/black pigment, and pheomelanin, which is a red/yellow pigment. People who have ancestors in Europe have a high diversity in hair and eye color. Our main goal is to find new genetic variants that determine hair and eye color variation in European populations. This can be done by comparing the self-reported hair and eye color of the participants of the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health (CanPath) with their respective genomic variants. Our study will provide novel insights about the genetic basis of hair and eye color, and is also of biomedical relevance, given the links that have been described between genetic variants associated with pigmentary traits and different forms of skin cancer, including cutaneous melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and basal cell carcinoma
(BCC).