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A Little Sun Might Shield Against Skin Cancer

Posted: January 30, 2007

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In their experiments, they found that the new compound "signaled (immune) T-cells," pushing them to migrate back to specific sites in the skin's epidermis. Once there, these powerful immune system agents stand on guard against infection and even cancer, the researchers said.

"So, the same wavelengths of sunlight that are most potent in inducing skin cancer -- UVB -- are also the wavelengths that produce this vitamin D precursor, D3," said Dr. Martin Weinstock, chairman of the skin cancer advisory group at the American Cancer Society. And it's D3 that starts the whole chain of events rolling.

Weinstock stressed that the Stanford study is far from conclusive, however, and should not be seen as an excuse to bake in the sun.

"We know that the sun is the major avoidable cause of skin cancer," he said. "This study is interesting and points to a productive area of research, both to confirm this in other settings and to flush out the implications of the finding. But does it really relate to skin cancers in real live people? We don't know."

"So, avoiding intense sun, protecting yourself when you're out in intense sun -- that's still our [cancer society] recommendation, and this is not going to change that," said Weinstock, who is also professor of dermatology and community health at Brown University.