15 October 2012

Stanford Study: Solar UV Radiation Reduces the Barrier Function of Human Skin - Public Health and Climate Change Links

Photo: iStock.com / David Freund

Stanford researchers found that UV exposure makes human tissue more likely to tear under pressure, meaning that sun-damaged skin is more prone to cracking and chapping, leaving deeper layers vulnerable to infection. The study was published Oct. 1 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Public Health and Climate Change links were also mentioned.

Highlights include:

"Ironically, the methodology behind these discoveries about skin damage originated in the field of photovoltaics, where sunshine is seen as a good thing. A grant from the U.S. Department of Energy supported Dauskardt's research into the effects of prolonged UV exposure on materials – in particular, the materials that make up solar panels.
"Here we were looking at solar cells then suddenly thinking, 'Hey, we should be looking at applying these techniques to skin,'" Dauskardt said."

"All this rigorous stress testing revealed a grim fact: The sun takes a dramatic toll on our mechanical barrier function."
"UV exposure doesn't just make the stratum corneum weaker," said Dauskardt. "It also increases the actual stresses that cause the stratum corneum to fail. So it's sort of a double-whammy, which we didn't expect." In other words, UV radiation introduces more force that drives skin cells apart while making the cells more helpless to resist."
"This double threat is especially relevant to public health, as global climate change will gradually change the way people interact with the sun. The spectrum of sunlight that penetrates to Earth's surface is increasing, while warmer temperatures cause people to wear less clothing and make them more vulnerable.
Mechanical testing is also confirming the vital importance of wearing sunscreen to protect the skin's integrity."