While exposure to ultra-violet (UV) light has been established as a cause of skin cancer, new research has found that temperature may also play a critical role.
Researchers from The Edith Cowan University’s Melanoma Research Group in Perth, Australia, exposed two samples of human skin cells to UV light, keeping one sample at 37°C and the other at 39°C. The study was published in the journal Bio Med Central Dermatology (May 26, 2016).
When they analyzed the skin cells they found that those exposed to the 39°C temperature had significantly more DNA damage.
Lead researcher Dr. Leslie Calapre said the higher temperature appeared to inhibit the tumour-suppressing protein p53 in skin cells.
“The p53 protein is responsible for mediating repair and/or the death of cells that harbour DNA damage. Suppression of this protein after exposure to UV and heat allows for the survival of damaged cells and thus potentially increases the risk that a cancerous tumour will develop,” she said in a press release.
Dr. Calapre said the findings were of particular significance to workers in industries that are required to work outside and exposed to high levels of heat.
“This research shows that in industries like mining, construction, and agriculture operating in areas that regularly see high temperatures, protecting workers from skin cancer requires not just minimizing their UV exposure, but also doing things to reduce the levels of ambient heat for workers,” she said. “Things like allowing workers to take regular breaks in air-conditioned areas on hot days, doing work in the shade wherever possible and making sure that protective clothing allows good air flow could all be ways of potentially minimizing risk.”