Cause of sunburn’s painful inflammation discovered by UCSD researchers


By BRADLEY J. FIKES [email protected] | Posted: Sunday, July 8, 2012 10:00 am


Sunburn’s red badge of agony is caused by damage to the genetic molecule RNA in skin cells, says a team led by researchers at UC San Diego.

Ultraviolet B light damages a certain kind of RNA that does not make proteins in a cell. This damage leads to the release of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, according to the researchers’ study, released Sunday. It’s all part of the process of removing damaged cells so they can be replaced with new, healthy ones.

The sunburn response itself is produced by the immune system, which targets damaged cells for destruction.

The cytokine response has “major implications” for tumor formation, according to the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine. Damaged skin cells that aren’t removed can lead to skin cancer.