Sunburns and Genetic Damage

New Study Shows Damage Is Worse Than Thought

Sunburns and Genetic Damage

Any regular reader knows how anti-sun exposure I am.

I say it again and again: limit your skin's exposure to UVA and UVB light and avoid midday sun at all costs.

With the heatwave, currently hitting most of North America, it certainly requires saying again.  

There is no such thing as a healthy tan and a sunburn is the body's response to damage.

We have known for many decades that a sunburn is a specific type of immune response to DNA destruction in the the skin cell, but a new study, published in Nature Medicine, has now shown that more damage is actually happening than we knew before.

The Toronto Star reported on these findings just last week.

What we already know about UVA and UVB exposure:

  1. A tan is the result of increased melanin production to prevent the radiation from penetrating the skin
  2. The more radiation penetrating the skin the more the enzyme elastase is produced causing the destruction of elastin
  3. The more radiation penetrating the skin the less Vitamin C can be absorbed thus preventing stable collagen production
  4. A sun burn results in the destruction of DNA thus causing mutated skin cell development which can lead to cancer

What the new study has revealed:

  1. A sunburn also results in the destruction of RNA which transmits healthy DNA in the body
  2. The inflammation of a sunburn is the body's defense mechanism to prevent more RNA destruction
  3. Anyone can experience RNA/DNA destruction regardless of skin pigment

What this means is that the colour of skin is not a factor for serious sun damage. It used to be considered that the more natural pigment a person has the less damage can be caused by UVA and UVB light. The new study shows that the RNA destruction happens regardless of skin pigment.  Simply put a burn is no longer the indicator that serious health damage is occurring it is the end result of the damage. Or to say it another way—the burn itself is not the actual damage rather the defense against the damage. By the time you have a sunburn the level of skin damage that is done is very dangerous. Exposing the skin to light and NOT getting a burn does not mean you have avoided sun damage.

Protect the skin with sunscreen, stay out of the sun in the middle of the day and remember you only need about 10-15 minutes of light exposure everyday to maintain health Vitamin D levels in the body.