New Research Shows Why We Sunburn

A team of medical researchers may have discovered what causes our skin to turn shades of red.

Every summer as the temperatures get warmer you can hardly escape the warnings: wear sunscreen to protect your skin from sunburn and reduce your chances of skin cancer.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Children are especially at risk: One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person's chances of developing melanoma later in life.”

While most tend to heed the warning — although melanoma cases are increasing, particularly in 18- to 39-year-olds — an explanation as to why our skin can become painfully red after just a few hours' exposure to the sun's UV rays was never really fully available — until recently.

A team of researchers involved with the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine has determined that when skin is damaged by the sun’s UVB rays it provokes “healthy, neighboring cells to start a process that results in an inflammatory response intended to remove sun-damaged cells.”

Principal investigator Richard L. Gallo, a professor of medicine at school and Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System had this to say about the study, which tested its theory on human skin cells and a mouse:

“The inflammatory response is important to start the process of healing after cell death. We also believe the inflammatory process may clean up cells with genetic damage before they can become cancer. Of course, this process is imperfect and with more UV exposure, there is more chance of cells becoming cancerous.”

The study did not determine how factors such as “gender, skin pigmentation and individual genetics may affect the mechanism of sunburn.”

So just how do you protect your skin from the damaging UV rays? The Skin Cancer foundation recommends a series of articles with information on how to treat sunburn and facts about sunburns and skin cancer. The Huffington Post also offers these tips for what to look for in a sunscreen product.


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