Ray ban

Ray ban

Sean Price

Before you hit the beach, remember. Overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays (invisible energy waves) can cause skin cancer. But scientists at Boston University School of Medicine are developing a new lotion to help your body defend itself from the skin-frying sunshine.

When UV rays hit DNA (chemical that carries hereditary information) in skin cells, the rays can cause mutations. These changes to the DNA can produce cancerous tumors.

To help prevent mutations in skin cells, the researchers developed a lotion containing tiny DNA fragments. The fragments send your cell’s protective enzymes (proteins that cause a chemical reaction) into overdrive. That way, when UV rays hit the skin, the cell’s enzymes are already present–set to guard against damage. The proactive lotion is more efficient than traditional sunblock–which simply shields your skin from UV rays, says Dr. David Goukassian, the researcher developing the new lotion.

In lab tests, mice sporting the lotion developed fewer UV-related tumors than other mice. If tests on humans go well, DNA might end up in your lotion. Until then, seek shade and slather on sunblock.

The U.S. Center’s for Disease Control and Prevention has a Web site about sun and skin cancer prevention. Site includes statistics and information about ultraviolet rays and sunscreen SPF (sun protection factor): www.cdc.gov/ChooseYourCover/

Heading out to the beach this summer? The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Weather Service predict the next day’s levels of ultraviolet radiation (UV index). To help you plan how best to protect your skin, click on: www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html

Learn how and why your skin tans and burns in the sun: http://travel.howstuffworks.com/sunscreen.htm

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