• Anna Solana, science journalist

    Sun damage continues after dark

    31 May Sun damage continues after dark

     

    Sources:

    Scientific American

    It may take a few hours for you to realise that you got sunburned while sunbathing. Similarly, the mutations that ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause in DNA and that lead to the dreaded skin cancer continue for several hours after you’ve left the beach or the mountains and the sun has gone down.

     

    Researchers at Yale University – led by Douglas E. Brash, a professor of radiology and dermatology – have published a study in Science that demonstrates that melanin, the pigment that darkens the skin to protect it from harm inflicted by UV rays, also has its downside. Certain components of this pigment are involved in the onset of DNA lesions that can cause the mutations responsible for melanoma – which continue for up to four hours after sun exposure has ended. Read More

  • Núria Estapé, science journalist

    What’s melanin for?

    16 May  What’s melanin for?

     

    Sources:

    Photochemistry and Photobiology

    When we refer to the sun and to tanning, we refer to melanin. Melanin is produced when the sun touches the skin, making us go brown. This pigment darkens the skin to protect it from the damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays. Our hair and the iris of the eye also contain melanin. But what exactly is melanin and what is it for?

     

    Melanin is not unique to humans, but is to be found in most living things. Thanks to melanin, some animals can change their colour as camouflage and plants have different colours. The melanin pigment is derived from tyrosine, an amino acid essential for our body to function properly. Melanin is made in the melanocytes (epidermal cells) and also in the hair follicles. It’s a bit like a coloured crayon, responsible for brownish and reddish tones in the skin and hair. But its main function is, in fact, to protect us against the damaging effects of UV radiation. Read More

  • Anna Solana, science journalist

    Queen Letizia: against the sun

    21 Mar Queen Letizia: against the sun

    She acknowledges having stupidly sunbathed without protection, like almost anyone else. But she also says she’s learned her lesson. Queen Letizia of Spain, inaugurating the 1st International Symposium on Cancers of the Skin, held in Madrid last January, insisted that "we don’t need to get burned to get a good tan."

     

    The data prove her right. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cases of skin cancer triple each decade. Skin cancer annually affects about 160,000 people worldwide; in Spain, incidence has increased 38% over the past four years. The sun takes its toll on the skin. In her talk the Queen very much emphasized this; avoiding excessive and uncontrolled exposure to the sun is key to preventing skin cancer, she said. Read More

  • Núria Estapé, science journalist

    The skin and environmental stress

    Air pollution, extreme temperatures, artificial light, ultraviolet radiation, noise, cigarette smoke and traffic fumes: all these environmental stressors threaten the health of our skin. Recent studies show that when the skin is continuously exposed to various forms of environmental stress it ages much faster and becomes vulnerable to diseases such as cancer.

     

    The skin is the wrapper that connects us to the environment and protects our body from the inclemencies of the weather. This is hardly surprising, as the skin is the body’s organ that suffers most when our living environment is toxic and inhospitable. Our skin reflects everything, whether it comes from within or without, whether it’s psychological problems, the repercussions of what we eat, the air we breathe or what touches our skin. Living conditions in large cities and industrial areas have created new problems for our skin, designed to be able to adapt to temperature and humidity variations in natural habitats. Read More

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