One of the central ironies of medicine is that we need sunlight to live, but too much sunlight can kill us. Sunscreen can work, provided you understand just what SPF really means, but there’s only so much it can do. Fortunately, scientists are on the case, and there’s a new way of protecting your skin in the works.
Sunlight is bad in large doses thanks to ultraviolet, or UV, rays, especially the first type, UVA. UVA rays aren’t absorbed by the ozone layer and are what tan your skin, penetrating it to the deepest layer. They also cause skin cancer, easily the most common form of cancer, by releasing iron from your cells, which they need to function. If that weren’t enough, UVA rays also release free radicals, molecules looking for spare electrons and stripping them out of other parts of the cell. So basically, UVA rays starve skin cells, let loose damaging particles inside it, and if that weren’t enough, iron and free radicals work together to cause even more damage.
That’s why the new form of skin protection being studied by researchers from University of Bath and Kings College London targets iron. They’ve created a compound that binds to iron in your cells and keeps it from reacting with other compounds. So your cells can keep their crucial function going, and you don’t have to worry about damage. That said, it’s early days for this treatment. It’s only been tested on skin cultures, and extensive human testing will need to be performed before it can be turned into a viable product. But if it works without major side effects, this might be a major tool in stopping skin cancer cold.