Yale scientists: Beware of skin cancer in the dark

You already know that repeated skin burns from the sun or tanning booths can lead to skin damage and cancer. Now, Yale researchers are showing us that skin can come to harm with the lights out, too.

The study at Yale shows that the skin problem starts when you get too much ultraviolet radiation and it changes the DNA in your melanocytes. These are cells in the skin that contain melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color.

That change distorts the skin’s DNA and makes the cells more likely to start forming cancerous tumors.

And here’s the important part you need to know. Even at night, long after your ultraviolet exposure is over, the cells continue to release CDPs, the harmful enzymes that make this cancerous development continue. CPDs are still being generated for more than 3 hours after exposure to UVA, a major component of the radiation in sunlight and in tanning beds.

So while sun exposure is necessary for vitamin D production in your body, the best way to fight off this “dark” DNA damage is not to get overexposed. Avoid sunburn, or letting your skin get overly red during the day. You should also stay away from tanning booths which generally expose you to the type of ultraviolet light that darkens skin but doesn’t lead to vitamin D production.

Your diet can protect your skin too:

  • Grapes, berries and walnuts contain resveratrol and calcium D-glucarate, substances that protect the skin according to research at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.
  • Raspberries, strawberries, cranberries and pomegranates contain ellagic acid. Lab tests in Korea show that ellagic acid can prevent wrinkles and defend the skin against ultraviolet damage.

So while you’re sitting by the pool this summer, it might be a good idea to treat yourself to a berry smoothie. It’s refreshing taste is good to both your taste buds and your skin.

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Carl Lowe

By Carl Lowe

has written about health, fitness and nutrition for a wide range of publications including Prevention Magazine, Self Magazine and Time-Life Books. The author of more than a dozen books, he has been gluten-free since 2007.