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Sun, Sun, Sun

Girl SunbathingThere has been a lot of discussion over the summer as to whether we should all be getting a bit more sun to boost cancer-fighting vitamin D levels. That argument coupled with revelations that suntan creams might themselves boost the risk of skin cancer all fly in the face of the contrary view that we should be staying in the shade.

One thing the sun worshippers and those of tan-free skin agree on – getting sun burn is no fun. Now, researchers in England (A country fabled for its sunny climes) are giving volunteers a tan in a bid to find a treatment for sunburn. Anna Nicolaou of the University of Bradford, in the renowned sunspot of the North of England, is examining the biological mechanisms underlying sunburn and why it particularly affects people who don’t get a “good” tan.

The research team hopes to discover whether melanocytes that do not actively produce melanin discharge inflammatory mediators, including pro-inflammatory hormones called prostaglandins, which cause the redness, irritation and swelling of the skin that is observed in sunburn. They also hope to discover why people who tan easily are less likely to develop sunburn, contrasting to pale-skinned people who tend to sunburn easier.

You can find out more via the Bradford U press site.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the beach.

A new light-activated ingredient that mops up damaging iron could help reduce the effects of sunburn, according to research published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology by UK scientists.

“When skin is exposed to high doses of sunlight, such as when you are sunbathing, a massive amount of free iron is released in skin cells,” explains Pourzand, “This free iron can act as catalysts for the generation of more harmful free radicals that cause severe cell damage.”

The net effect of mopping up iron released as the skin burns, is to reduce inflammation and pain, which are exacerbated by iron, and to prevent the build up of free radicals, which have been linked to an increased risk of skin cancer.

The researchers, Charareh Pourzand of the University of Bath and James Dowden, now at Nottingham University, are currently testing prototypes of the ingredient in the lab using three-dimensional human skin cultures and anticipate trialling the ingredient with human volunteers in the next two to three years.

Find out more at the Bath U press site

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