Scientists report that the p53 gene, which works to curb tumors, also triggers the chemical chain reaction that makes the skin tan when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light.
Fisher's team found that mice without the p53 gene weren't able to tan when exposed to UV light.
"The induction of beta-endorphin appears to be hard-wired to the tanning pathway," Fisher says in a Cell Press news release. "This might explain addictive behaviors associated with sun-seeking or the use of tanning salons."
One day, skin lotions may be able to activate p53 just enough to trigger tanning without allowing UV damage, the editorialists note.
SOURCES: Cui, R. Cell, March 9, 2007; vol 128: pp 853-864. Oren, M. Cell, March 9, 2007; vol 128: pp 826-828. News release, Cell Press. News release, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
By Mirandi Hitti, WebMD, March 9, 2007