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The Skinny on Sunburns

Why people with light skin are at greater risk of cancer

(HealthDayNews) -- Ever wonder why people with light skin are at greater risk of skin cancer?

The February 2000 issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine has an explanation. In addition to causing sunburn, ultraviolet light also reduces the immune function in the skin, and that's what leads to skin cancer.

Researchers at Guy's, King's and St. Thomas' School of Medicine in London report that one hour of sun exposure can reduce the immune response of light skin by as much as 80 percent. By comparison, people with darker skin -- or those who tan well -- only have their immune response reduced by about 40 percent under the same conditions.

The researchers conclude that it's the reduced immune response -- not the sunburn itself -- that increases the risk of skin cancer.

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