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DNA-enhanced sunscreen

Most sunscreens arrest harmful ultra-violet radiation, but fail to give skin cells support to fight back.

health and fitness Updated: Mar 05, 2004 20:02 IST

Most sunscreens available arrest harmful ultra-violet radiation, but fail to give skin cells support to fight back.

Now, new research published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that applying sun-cream containing DNA fragments on the skin is likely to cut down the risk of skin cancer.

The DNA fragments are thought to trick skin cells into thinking that sunlight has damaged their DNA, which in turn kicks off production of proteins that repair and protect cells' genetic material from further mutations that might spark cancer.

The team slathered mice with the DNA lotion and then mimicked mild sunburn using ultraviolet (UV) light. The treated animals stayed free of pre-cancerous skin lesions for 16 weeks, while unprotected ones succumbed after 9 weeks.

According to researcher Barbara Gilchrest at the Boston University School of Medicine, the fragments could be a powerful new ingredient in sunscreens and the effect is likely to last longer and even help cells resist the sun damage that contributes to ageing.

The incidence of skin cancer has increased around 20-fold since the 1930s, thanks largely to people's penchant for sunbathing and exotic holidays. When UV rays in sunlight hit skin cells' DNA, they causes mutations that can make cells multiply and form skin tumours.

The sunscreens available in the market passively block damaging UV rays and sometimes are ineffective because users often do not apply them frequently enough or in sufficient quantities.

Incidentally, sunscreens and other skincare products already contain a range of products like antioxidants from green tea, which are thought to prevent DNA damage.

First Published: Mar 05, 2004 20:02 IST