Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston, MA) have found that the p53 protein, known to guard against cancer-causing DNA damage, provides an entirely different level of cancer protection: by prompting the skin to tan in response to ultraviolet light from the sun, p53 deters the development of melanoma skin cancer. New melanoma treatments could result from the discovery.

“The number one risk factor for melanoma is an inability to tan; people who tan easily or have dark pigmentation are far less likely to develop the disease,” said the study's senior author, David E. Fisher, MD, PhD, director of the Melanoma Program at Dana-Farber and a professor in pediatrics at Children's Hospital Boston.. “This study suggests that p53, one of the best-known tumor-suppressor proteins in our body, has a powerful role in protecting us against sun damage in the skin.”

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