Although skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, studies have discovered that the existence of a ‘sunscreen’ gene may help to prevent one of the most prevalent and dangerous diseases.

What is the ‘Sunscreen’ Gene?

The sunscreen gene is defined as a ‘UV-radiation Resistant Associated Gene’ that acts as a tumor suppressant for skin cancer. This gene has the ability to heal UV-induced burns and serves as effective protection from UV skin damage. A USC article in Science Daily revealed how this gene truly works to heal and protect the skin.

“The UV-resistant gene is involved in the multistep DNA cell-repair process. First, a known protein scans for damaged DNA. Once it finds lesions, it tags the UV-resistant gene into action. The UV-resistant gene is like a humanitarian convoy dropping off reinforcements or aid to help damaged areas repair at precisely the right time.”

This intelligent gene possesses the power to rehabilitate unhealthy cells at the precise time that the body needs it. Unfortunately when the UV-resistant gene is not present skin cells do not have the ability to repair UV induced damage.

Who Has the ‘Sunscreen’ Gene?

Those with lighter, less pigmented skin are not likely to have the UV-resistant gene. Studies have shown that people with pale skin and red hair are more prone to skin cancer because of their genetic background. “Frequent trips to the tanning salon and genetics all play a role in developing skin cancer.” Melanin absorbs ¾’s of UV light. Those with higher levels of melanin are generally a bit more protected than those with lighter skin and less melanin.

“Skin pigmentation is the most important photoprotective factor, since melanin, besides functioning as a broadband UV absorbent, has antioxidant and radical scavenging properties” (The Protective Role of Melanin Against UV Damage in Human Skin – ncbi.gov).

Melanin production serves as the first line of defense for protection against UV damage by absorbing UV energy and diverting it away from healthy cells. “Skin cells first deploy melanin they have on hand and then go into melanin production to get more pigment to the skin.” People with darker pigmented skin are more likely to carry the sunscreen gene but are not free from risk of getting skin cancer. “Even if you have this protective gene, it can’t repair all of the damage the sun causes.” It is still crucial to have a skincare regime that includes daily use of sun protection. (A “Sunscreen Gene”? Skincancer.org)

Hope for Those Without the ‘Sunscreen Gene’

For anyone who may not have the UV-resistant gene researchers have already found ways to reproduce it in the lab. One of the many ways scientists have found success is through genetically engineering yeast to recreate the sunscreen gene. One day, people may even be able to skip sunscreen lotion all together and effectively block harmful UV-rays from the inside out.  

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