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Monday, July 7, 2014

New clues to skin cancer development show sunscreen is not enough

Sunscreen (Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik)
Scientists have shown that sunscreen cannot be relied upon alone to prevent malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, according to research* published in Nature.

"This research adds important evidence showing that sunscreen has a role, but that you shouldn’t just rely on this to protect your skin." - Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK

The work supports the approach taken by public health campaigns that call for people to use a combination of shade and clothing to protect their skin, applying sunscreen to the areas you can’t cover.

The research explains more about the mechanism by which UV light leads to melanoma and also explores the extent to which sunscreen is able to prevent UV light from damaging healthy cells.

In the study, carried out at Cancer Research UK’s Manchester Institute, based at the University of Manchester, and at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, scientists examined the molecular effects of UV light on the skin of mice at risk of melanoma** and whether disease development was blocked by sunscreen.

UV light directly damages the DNA in the skin’s pigment cells, increasing the chances of developing melanoma. Crucially, the researchers show that it causes faults in the p53 gene, which normally helps protect from the effects of DNA damage caused by UV light.

The study also showed that sunscreen can greatly reduce the amount of DNA damage caused by UV, delaying the development of melanoma in the mice. But,...

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