Sun damage is the leading factor in skin aging, and, of course, skin cancer. Around 95% of the ultraviolet radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface is ultraviolet A radiation. That’s the UVA you see on sunscreen labels, along with UVB. New research seems to point to a new compound that can provide a better shield in sunscreen against UVA rays.
Dr. Kronberg deals with the effects of the sun with her patients every day. Living in Houston, there is no shortage of sunny days and all of us usually are out trying to make the most of them. The result is skin damage from the sun’s UV rays.
With that in mind, we’re interested in this new finding and thought we’d pass on the info to our patients.
What is UVA radiation?
Most people have heard of the types of ultraviolet radiation, although most of that information comes from the label on the sunscreen tube. Although it wasn’t always the case, most sunscreens are now called full spectrum, meaning they block both UVA and UVB rays. But it’s generally considered that they don’t do anywhere near as good a job on UVA rays as they do on UVB.
This devaluation of UVA radiation seems odd, but it was the visible damage that sunscreen was initially formulated to prevent. For a long time, sunscreens were only concerned with UVB rays because those are the rays that cause sunburn on the epidermis, the top layer of the skin. Those sunburns were obvious damage, but scientists didn’t know that UVA rays were actually doing more damage without the burn. UVA rays penetrate the skin’s second layer, the dermis, damaging the collagen fibers. This leads to wrinkles and sun spots, but it also damages the DNA, which can trigger mutations that lead to skin cancer.
Another effect of UVA radiation
This study by the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom targeted another effect of UVA radiation. They found that UVA rays stimulate excess free iron present in cell mitochondria (the structures that produce energy in the cells). The stimulation of this free iron seems to fuel a reaction that causes damage to cell components, including DNA and various proteins. This damage then can lead to cell death, skin aging, and skin cancer. The study says that the role this free iron plays in damage to skin cells exposed to UVA rays has been underestimated for years.
A new compound
In the study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatogy, the researchers then developed a compound that prevented the free iron in mitochondria from reacting once it was exposed to UVA radiation. They called this compound the “mitoiron claw.” The mitoiron claw travels to mitochondria within cells, where it binds to the excess free iron.
To test the effect of their new compound, the researchers applied the mitoiron claw to human skin cells and exposed them to 140 minutes of continuous sea-level UVA radiation. Compared with untreated skin cells, the treated cells were highly protected against the UVA radiation.
This could be a new additive to sunscreens
Thanks to this intriguing finding, research is proceeding rapidly on the mitoiron claw compound. The next step would be to do further testing and then to add the mitoiron claw compound to sunscreens. Researchers think this could happen in the next 3-4 years. For your skin, that level of protection against UVA radiation damage could make a big difference in the way skin ages from sun exposure.
Schedule a consultation
Of course, since such protection is still years away, your skin has to deal with the Texas sun every day now. Protect it, and then call Dr. Kronberg to schedule your yearly skin checkup. Call us at 713-771-8941 to make your appointment.