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Suntan Gene Discovered

Posted: March 29, 2007
An anticancer gene that moonlights as a suntan gene may partly explain why people crave sunlight and even become addicted to tanning.

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.

The p53 gene spurs the tanning process to reduce UV damage, note the researchers, who included David Fisher, MD, PhD, of Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School.

Fisher's team found that mice without the p53 gene weren't able to tan when exposed to UV light.

And when the p53 gene triggers the tanning process, it also boosts the release of beta-endorphin, one of the body's "feel-good" chemicals.