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Tiny DNA Strand Stops Skin Cancer -- and It Tans, Too

WebMD Health News

New Type of Sunscreen Stops Skin Cancer

March 1, 2004 -- When applied to the skin, a tiny DNA molecule stops skin cancer -- and it tans the skin, too.

The molecule, known as pTT or thymidine dinucleotide, jump-starts the skin's own cancer fighting machinery. Applying it to the skin before sun exposure would likely reduce skin cancer.

Don't look for it in the drugstore yet. The finding comes from mouse studies in the Boston University lab of David A. Goukassian, MD, PhD. But the report, in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, brims with optimism.

"Topically applied pTT may enhance DNA repair capacity in human skin, in the absence of actual DNA damage that normally induces this protective response," Goukassian and colleagues conclude. "[It] may thus reduce the carcinogenic risk from subsequent solar UV irradiation in individuals at high risk because of fair skin, other genetic predispositions, or advanced age."

A special breed of hairless mice makes an excellent model of human skin cancer caused by sun exposure. But when rubbed with pTT, the mice get significant cancer protection.

Unlike humans, however, mice don't tan. Guinea pigs do. And when rubbed with pTT, they get an added level of sun protection: They tan.

"Among its other protective responses in guinea pigs ... pTT causes tanning that is ... identical to UV-induced tanning and highly [protective against sunlight]," Goukassian and colleagues report.

SOURCE: Goukassian, D.A. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, early online edition, March 1-5, 2004.

Brush up on Beauty

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