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GW Researcher: “There is no such thing as a safe tan.”

Update Date: Jul 23, 2012 02:09 PM EDT
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One week after Govenor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation limiting children's use of tanning beds, researchers from the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences have concluded that there is no such thing as a safe tan.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Researcher Edward C. De Fabo said this is the first time that UV-induced tanning, traditionally thought to protect against skin cancer, is shown to be directly involved in melanoma formation in mammals.

 "Skin melanoma is the most lethal of the skin cancers," De fabo said. "Our study shows that we were able to discover this new role for melanin by cleanly separating UVA from UVB and exposing our experimental melanoma animal model with these separated wavebands using our unique UV light system designed and set up at GW. Dermatologists have been warning for years there is no such thing as a safe tan and this new data appears to confirm this."

Their research uses a mammalian model to investigate melanoma formed in response to precise spectrally defined ultraviolet wavelengths and biologically relevant doses. They show that melanoma induction by ultraviolet A (320-400 nm) requires the presence of melanin pigment and is associated with oxidative DNA damage within melanocytes. In contrast, ultraviolet B radiation (280-320 nm) initiates melanoma in a pigment-independent manner associated with direct ultraviolet B DNA damage. The researchers identified two ultraviolet wavelength-dependent pathways for the induction of CMM and the study describes an unexpected and significant role for melanin within the melanocyte in melanoma genesis.

 "Also new is our discovery that UV induction of melanin, as a melanoma-causing agent, works when skin is exposed only to UVA and not UVB radiation," De Fabo said. "This is especially important since melanoma formation has been correlated with sunbed use as many epidemiological studies have shown. One possible reason for this is that tanning lamps are capable of emitting UVA radiation up to 12 times, or higher, the UVA intensity of sunlight at high noon. Melanin plus UVA is known to cause photo-oxidation, a suspected, but still to be proved, mechanism for the formation of melanoma as we describe in our study."

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