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New Research Shows Sunscreen Prevents Skin Cancer and Saves Superhero Gene

by Will / October, 23 2013 01:00
Dr Elke Hacker using sunscreen
© QUT's Dr. Elke Hacker

The mighty sunscreen protects against skin cancer? That's what research out of Australia shows. It also saves something called the p53 "Superhero" gene which turns out is a pretty darn important gene.

Ok, so what is this all about? We've known for a long time that sunblock protects you against the sun's rays (see our article "UVA, UVB and UVC Rays: What They Are and How Sunscreen Protects You") and helping prevent sunburn is the most obvious benefit. However, until now some have been hesitant to say it helps prevent skin cancer (although both the US Food and Drug Administration and the Skin Cancer Foundation acknowledge this). Not necessarily because it doesn't, but because they wanted more evidence.  Well, here it is...

Research Says Sunscreen Prevents Skin Cancer

Dr. Elke Hacker (pictured above and the lead researcher) out of the Queensland University of Technology in Australia has some ground breaking research that found four things:

  1. Sunscreen protects against malignant melanoma
  2. Sunscreen protects against basal cell carcinoma
  3. Sunscreen protects against squamous cell carcinoma
  4. Sunscreen shields the p53 gene against mutation

So what does this mean? Well, I'll turn to what Dr. Hacker has to say (you can read the full article here). In regards to skin cancer the news is pretty amazing about what a bit of sunblock can do:

"Researchers found sunscreen provides 100 percent protection against all three forms of skin cancer: BCC (basal cell carcinoma); SCC (squamous cell carcinoma); and malignant melanoma."

Research Suggests Sunscreen Is Full Proof Protection

That's right, the researchers say a bit of sunscreen can provide 100% protection from skin cancer. I must admit, I'm always a little hesitant to say 100% anything but even if it's 80% or 90% protection, isn't that amazing from something as simple as a tube of sunblock? Check out the quote above plus one more quote from the article for the full impact:

"The study, published in the Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research journal, looked at the impact of sunlight on human skin, both with and without sunscreen, and found no evidence of UV-induced skin damage when proper application of sunscreen (SPF30+) had been applied to exposed area."

Ok, right there I'm running to my medicine cabinet to slather on a little bit of the good stuff - Block Island Organics sunblock of course!

More on Our p53 Superhero Gene

So up next, what is this p53 "Superhero" gene thing? Well, I did a little research and Wikipedia says it "functions as a tumor suppressor that is involved in preventing cancer" and Dr. Hacker says:

"As soon as our skin becomes sun damaged, the p53 gene goes to work repairing that damage and thereby preventing skin cancer occurring."

That sounds like a gene I really want working on my side and since sunblock helps protect this gene - well, that's just one more reason to lather up on a daily basis. Let's go back to Dr. Hacker for a little bit more on the p53 gene:

"But over time if skin is burnt regularly the p53 gene mutates and can no longer do the job it was intended for - it no longer repairs sun damaged skin and without this protection skin cancers are far more likely to occur."

Hmm...this p53 gene sounds pretty amazing. In fact, in my research I found that mutations to it seem to be related to all types of cancer: skin, lung, testicular, liver and more.  So all-in-all this it leads me to think "sunscreen every day" should be everyone's mantra. What do you think?

If you want to read more about the study and results check out the Queensland University of Technology article or the full research results (they're a bit technical for me but still readable). Let's go back to Dr. Hacker one last time.  She says:

"What we found was that, after 24 hours where the sunscreen had been applied, there were no DNA changes to the skin and no impact on the p53 gene."

Very cool huh. Want to know more? Check out our suncare smarts articles to stay informed.

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