West Houston Dermatology

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UVA Radiation and DNA Damage

UVA is a particular spectrum of light that is generated by the sun and to which we are all exposed.  Patients who tan or sunbathe despite warnings from their dermatologist and/or primary care physician – listen up!  A published study conducted by New York University medical researchers found that exposing melanocytes (the cells of the skin that dictate skin color) caused damage to the cell’s DNA.  The damage was not just to a few cells here and there, but ALL exposed cells.  Though cellular DNA can be damaged, many cell types are able to “auto-correct.”  However, what was alarming here is that the melanocytes were unable to correct the DNA damage.  Simply put, this means new cells can form with mutations that can lead to cancers like melanoma.  So, if you think your dermatologist or primary care doctor is blowing smoke about the inherent dangers of tanning or sunbathing, think again.  Dermatologists do not intend to banish the general population from the sun – they merely want people to be smart about it by wearing sunscreen, protective clothing, or limiting sun exposure where possible.  Though cool weather has finally reached the Houston area, we all must still make a conscious effort to protect our skin thereby avoiding skin cancer.