Here's an interesting approach to sun exposure and its dangers. Take a powerful antioxidant in anticipation of a day at the beach or a day of prolonged sun exposure to reduce oxidative damage to moles that might be highly receptive to cancerous changes. NAC (n-acetylcysteine) is a unique drug because it is inexpensive, has relatively few side effects, has a short serum half life (meaning it clears out of the bloodstream rather quickly) and is rapidly metabolized to its powerful antioxidant potential.
This is the case of a drug that is already used to treat acetaminophen overdose/toxicity and is also used to treat people who have severe reactions to contrast dye used in certain radiographic tests - now showing promise for other uses. In order to test the melanoma-causing prevention potential of NAC, researchers took moles from 8 patients and then administered NAC to them and removed a second mole from each of the same 8 patients. The moles were then irradiated with enough UV light to mimic a day outdoors in Utah sun. The researchers then examined the moles 24 hours later and noted that the moles removed after the patients ingested the NAC showed fewer chemical associations that might be associated with oxidative pre-cancerous changes.
The downside of this study was the fact that in hindsight, researchers felt they should have waited 48 hours to look at the nevi because that is typically when maximum oxidative stress occurs. Researchers plan to repeat the study with the 48 hour "look see" and to also see if NAC is equally effective if taken after the sun exposure.
In the meantime, keep using UVA/UVB sunblock year round and keep sun exposure minimal whenever possible.
And, a new and highly specialized adhesive tape may be the new cornerstone of melanoma diagnosis. In fact, because of its non-invasive quality, this could become the first line of testing suspicious looking moles and skin abnormalities in order to determine whether further testing is necessary to rule out a skin cancer or in particular, a melanoma. Once the adhesive tape obtains the sample, it can be tested for a genetic biomarker. The hope is to ultimately reduce the number of unnecessary and invasive diagnostic. In addition, the researchers are hoping that this test can turn around a diagnosis of "suspicion or not" within 3-5 days - helping patients to get a relatively quick analysis.
Published On: August 24, 2008