Anti-cancer sunscreen 'at an early stage' says Cancer Research UK

In collaboration with the Press Association

Cancer Research UK has responded to reports that scientists are developing a new anti-cancer sunscreen, pointing out that the research is at an early stage and people should still take care in the sun.

Scientists in Bath have suggested that adding a new ingredient designed to repair damaged skin to sunscreen could help to heal sunburn and prevent the onset of skin cancer.

Sunscreen blocks the UVA and UVB rays in sunlight that can cause burning, but their protection is less than complete and skin damage often still occurs.

Dr Emma Knight of Cancer Research UK said that the study had merit but that further research was required to discover whether the approach would lead to a viable product.

"This is an interesting study but the research is still at a very early stage. Much more work is crucial before we will know whether this approach has potential for preventing skin cancer," she said.

"When we are trying to protect ourselves from sunburn and skin cancer, sunscreens should be used as a last line of defence.

"The most important thing is to avoid burning by spending time in the shade between 11 and three o'clock, and covering up with a T-shirt, hat and sunglasses."

The statement came in response to work published in the JOurnal of Investigative Dermatology proposing chemicals called chelators could be added to sunscreen to help mop up the iron released into the body when skin burns.

"This free iron can act as catalysts for the generation of more harmful free radicals that cause severe cell damage," said researcher Dr Charareh Pourzand of Bath University.

"Many forms of cancer are thought to be the result of reactions between free radicals and DNA, causing mutations that can disrupt the cell cycle and potentially lead to cancer."

Cancer Research UK runs SunSmart - the UK's national skin cancer prevention campaign. More information on skin cancer and sun protection can be found on our website at www.sunsmart.org.uk