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Sunscreen alone cannot Prevent Skin Cancer, Study Finds

Update Date: Jun 12, 2014 10:52 AM EDT

Health experts have repeatedly stressed the importance of applying sunscreen every time people go outdoors, whether it is for 15 minutes or two hours. These experts have also recommended people to cover up whenever possible. In a new study, researchers found more evidence that following these steps is vital in preventing skin cancer. The team reported that sunscreen alone cannot prevent malignant melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer and recommended that people cover up as much as they can.

For this study conducted at Cancer Research UK's Manchester Institute located at the University of Manchester and The Institute of Cancer Research, London, the researchers tested the molecular effects that ultraviolet (UV) light have on mice models. They focused on whether or not sunscreen could effectively prevent the development of melanoma.

The researchers discovered that UV light could directly harm the DNA found in the skin's pigment cells. The light specifically affects the p53 gene and prevents the gene from effectively protecting the skin from DNA damage, which increases one's risk of skin cancer. The researches found that sunscreen alone could not stop the damage from occurring. Instead, sunscreen was only capable of slowing down the effects of UV light on p53.

"UV light has long been known to cause melanoma skin cancer, but exactly how this happens has not been clear. These studies allow us to begin to understand how UV light causes melanoma," study author, Professor Richard Marais who is also a Cancer Research UK scientist, said reported by Medical Xpress. "UV light targets the very genes protecting us from its own damaging effects, showing how dangerous this cancer-causing agent is. Very importantly, this study provides proof that sunscreen does not offer complete protection from the damaging effects of UV light."

Based from the study's findings, the researchers stressed the importance of using multiple strategies in order to protect one's skin from harmful rays. People must apply sunscreen regularly throughout the day, cover up whenever possible and use different form of shading whenever possible.

The study, "Ultraviolet radiation accelerates BRAF-driven melanomagenesis by targeting TP53," was published in Nature.

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