Sunday, March 25, 2007

P53 protein and tanning

At first this may seem an odd coincidence, but maybe it isn't. P53 is the protein which plays a critical role in preventing runaway division in cells with damaged DNA, and hence inhibiting cancer. Unless p53 itself becomes faulty – which happens in the majority of cancerous cells. It does its job by stopping the cell division cycle if damaged DNA is detected.

But apparently p53 is also implicated in tanning of human skin by the sun.

'Guardian Of The Genome' Protein Found To Underlie Skin Tanning
A protein known as the "master watchman of the genome" for its ability to guard against cancer-causing DNA damage has been found to provide an entirely different level of cancer protection: By prompting the skin to tan in response to ultraviolet light from the sun, it deters the development of melanoma skin cancer, the fastest-increasing form of cancer in the world.

In a study in the March 9 issue of the journal Cell, researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute report that the protein, p53, is not only linked to skin tanning, but also may play a role in people's seemingly universal desire to be in the sun -- an activity that, by promoting tanning, can reduce one's risk of melanoma.

"The number one risk factor for melanoma is an inability to tan; people who tan easily or have dark pigmentation are far less likely to develop the disease," says the study's senior author, David E. Fisher, MD, PhD, director of the Melanoma Program at Dana-Farber and a professor in pediatrics at Children's Hospital Boston. "This study suggests that p53, one of the best-known tumor-suppressor proteins in our body, has a powerful role in protecting us against sun damage in the skin."

Of course, people who tan easily or have dark pigmentation may also be less inclined to spend time in the sun for the purpose of acquiring a tan, so any other factors in an individual that might be responsible for tannning or dark pigmentation would also indirectly reduce the statistical liklihood of melanoma.

However, the research shows that p53 does influence tanning directly.

Other reports:

Update 8/3/08: There is related news about this here.

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