Free radical, baby

The scene: Celina, the innocent skin cell, approaches the sunny outdoors. Unbeknownst to her, some energetic travelers are speeding her way. We’ll call them UVBilly and UVAlan, the Ray brothers.

Celina feels all tingly and excited as Billy and Alan come over to check her out. Everything goes well at first and Celina feels great with all the attention, but then they start wearing out their welcome, talking trash. Now their plan is clear: they want to mess with her DNA hairdo.  Just mean-spirited? Maybe. If they pull the pins out of her updo, weakening it, they could ruin the whole look. Seeing Celina’s distress, Melanie melanocyte comes over and takes charge. 

“Girl, you need some melanin – and fast!” says Melanie and pulls some little Chihuahua melanin attack dogs out of her enormous Gucci bag. Not only do the little wonders help Celina fix her DNA hair, but they start biting the ankles of the two guys. They get all hot and bothered, but remain persistent. Things start to get uglier. Alan and Billy cast off all pretense of being nice and come to the point. “You know you want us, baby.”

Celina feels suddenly very weak and screams as a chunk of her electron arm falls off and starts running around by itself, now a free radical. Billy and Alan laugh hysterically. Now they’ve got her unstable, which is what they always like to do when they’ve worn out their welcome. Melanie is doing all she can, but more help is needed. What will the girls do? Do you hear that?! Hooray! It’s our super heroes, the E and C Vitamin antioxidants.

C pounces on the electron arm free radical. They fight and it ends tragically as C is mortally wounded even though the arm is successfully restored. “I would give my life for you again, and again, if I could,” gasps C before he closes his eyes for the last time.  Billy and Alan run as a cloud passes by. Celina and Melanie thank the remaining cousin and hurry inside. Would they ever be safe?

So this is the moral of the story: In real life, the sun’s rays can cause DNA damage, but before that usually gets significant, the ray’s trigger melanin which is photoprotective. It turns the energy into harmless heat. Vitamin C protects the cells too, but it dies doing so. Free radicals are the main dangers – they are molecules gone bad from being damaged, because they are missing an electron. They try to steal electrons which then damage another molecule, and so on. Sunscreens are believed to increase these free radicals.

Sunburn triggers DNA repair and increased melanin. It is not believed to cause malignant melanoma, which is responsible for 75% of all skin cancer related deaths, but the rays that cause sunburn could be responsible for the other less dangerous skin cancers. Sunscreen can give a false feeling of protection, because it usually does not block the most dangerous rays that do not cause sunburn, but cause the deadliest cancer.

The story continues……….

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