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Skin cancer prevention

In the United States, where skin cancer is common, a team at the University of Alabama Birmingham is trying out a cream that may prevent the disease.

Where spending hours in the sun is a daily summer habit, more and more sunbathers are using sunscreen. But researchers say they also are spending more hours in the sun, putting themselves at continued risk for skin cancer.

In Australia, more than 400,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year; in the United States, it’s more than a million.

Doctors usually remove the cancers surgically.

A research team at the University of Alabama Birmingham is studying a new skin cream, hoping it may prevent skin cancers by repairing damaged DNA.

The team is testing the drug on patients who are taking immune suppressing drugs for other ailments.

Dr. Craig Elmets, a dermatologist at UAB, discusses the research. "These patients are placed on immune suppressing drugs and by suppressing the immune system it accelerates the development of cancer."

The medicine, dimericine, works to repair DNA and, it's hoped, can prevent new skin cancers.

Participants spread it on their arms and face and are examined later for new lesions.

Dr. Elmets hopes the cream will work on the general population. "What we hope is that by applying a bacterial enzyme that also repairs damaged DNA, we can reduce the number of abnormal cells and in doing so we can reduce the incidence of skin cancer."

In the meantime, the best way to prevent skin cancer is to stay out of the sun during the middle of the day, when the rays are strongest, and wear a hat or use an umbrella.

Some video courtesy of University of Alabama, Birmingham