Skin patches chronically exposed to sunlight have up to 10 times more cancer-causing gene mutations than does skin that is normally protected from the sun, a new study shows.
Douglas Brash, a professor at Yale University School of Medicine and lead author of the study, said the findings provide new evidence that sunlight can turn on a cancer-causing mechanism in normal, healthy skin.
“We are all sitting here with precancerous cells in our skin,” said Brash.
A report on the study is to be published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
The researchers also found that when sun-damaged skin is protected from sunlight, the number of mutated cells tends to go down, suggesting the body is eliminating these cells.
“If you stay out of the sun, these cells tend to go away,” Brash said.
“We don’t know exactly how this happens,” he said, but said it could be some self-protection mechanism that the body uses.