SPF, UVA, UVB...what do they all mean? Know the buzzwords and facts needed to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun. McClatchy FDA
SPF, UVA, UVB...what do they all mean? Know the buzzwords and facts needed to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun. McClatchy FDA

Healthy Choices

News and inspiration for healthy living in Northern California

Healthy Choices

‘Sunscreen gene’ may predict skin cancer risk

By Sammy Caiola

scaiola@sacbee.com

May 23, 2016 10:00 AM

Researchers at the University of Southern California are exploring a “UV radiation resistance associated gene” that acts as a tumor suppressor for skin cancer. People who have low levels of that gene, or a mutated form of it, may be at higher risk for developing skin cancer, according to the study, especially if they tan or sun bathe frequently.

The scientists gave a UV shot to cells carrying the normal UV-resistant gene and cells carrying defective copies of it, according to a USC press release. After 24 hours, cells with normal versions of the gene had repaired more than half of the UV-induced damage, while the defective samples repaired less than 20 percent of it.

The information comes at a crucial time – melanoma rates have doubled in the U.S. over the past three decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The UV gene was discovered about two decades ago in relation to xeroderma pigmentosum, a disease which makes people extremely sensitive to sunlight, according to the release. The USC study claims to be the first to identify the way the gene operates in people with skin cancer.

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“If we understand how this UV-resistant gene functions and the processes by which cells repair themselves after ultraviolet damage, then we could find targets for drugs to revert a misguided mechanism back to normal conditions,” said Chengyu Liang, the study’s senior author and an associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

Park use low among seniors, young females

Seniors, adults and young females are not making enough use of their neighborhood parks, found a study published this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Health research group Rand Corp., with funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, looked at 174 neighborhood parks in 25 cities with 100,000 or more residents during the spring and summer of 2014 to count users and track activity. They found that parks were overwhelmingly used by younger people, but more so young males than young females.

Females represented only 40 percent of children and 35 percent of teens seen using the park. They were also less likely to be playing an organized sport and were more sedentary than males, according to the study.

Adults and seniors use their parks less frequently than children, but were more likely do so if the park contained a walking loop. Seniors were also drawn to fitness zones and exercise areas in parks.

Park use was lowest in high-poverty neighborhoods, according to the study, even when the park had facilities similar to those in more affluent neighborhoods.

The study suggests that updating parks to increase use by young people would save money in the long run because it would keep people healthier and cut down on care costs.

Potentially harmful compounds in hot tubs, pools

Many homeowners and public facilities use disinfecting products such as chlorine to kill pathogens in hot tubs and swimming pools. A new study from the American Chemical Society shows that those products may interact with sweat and urine to form potentially dangerous compounds.

The compounds, called disinfection byproducts, have been shown to cause genetic damage to cells in lab settings. Some people who swim or work in and around pools have higher rates of certain health problems, including respiratory symptoms and bladder cancer, according to the study.

The researchers sampled water from both public and private hot tubs after normal and intense use. They identified 100 byproducts and found that, on average, pool and hot tub samples were 2.4 and 4.1 times more toxic, respectively, than the original tap water used to fill them.

Study authors recommend that pool and hot tub owners change water more frequently to clear out potentially dangerous compounds, and that they ask users to shower before entering the water to minimize reactions.

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola