Could Increasing the Melanin In Your Skin Protect You From Cancer?

Could Increasing the Melanin In Your Skin Protect You From Cancer?


More people are diagnosed with skin cancer
in the US than any other cancer combined. In fact, melanoma–a highly dangerous type
of skin cancer–is estimated to claim one life every hour. So what if you could lower your risk of skin
cancer….by changing the color of your skin? Ok, this is a big subject, so let’s start
with the science. Everyone has something in their skin called
melanin, a biological pigment that gives us the color of our skin, hair, and eyes. The cells in our epidermis that make this
pigment are called melanocytes, and everyone has the same number of them, but everyone’s
melanocytes make different amounts of melanin, and different kinds. Melanin serves a few very important purposes
besides giving your skin its color. When you’re outside, your skin is being
exposed to the ultraviolet rays of the sun. UV radiation is just that–radiation–and
prolonged exposure can damage the DNA of your skin cells. With enough damage, that DNA can start to
malfunction and the life cycle of your skin cells is disrupted, potentially causing uncontrolled
replication and leading to cancerous growths.Your body’s lookin’ out for you though, and
has a couple of defense mechanisms in place–one of which is…your melanocytes. Inside your melanocytes are little melanin-producing
factories called melanosomes. If the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the
cell, the melanosome is the powerhouse of the melanocyte. And there are two kinds of melanin produced
by these melanosomes–eumelanin, a darker pigment, and pheomelanin, a light-colored
pigment. Eumelanin blocks UV photons from damaging
the skin, so those without a lot of it–people with lighter skin–are at higher risk of sun
damage. So when your skin is exposed to more sun,
your melanocytes are ‘turned on’ to produce more of this UV-blocking melanin to protect
your cells. How much melanin–and which kind–your skin
makes is controlled by your genes. That’s why some people’s skin tone deepens–or
is making more melanin–when exposed to sunlight. Others can’t produce more than a certain
amount of melanin, and so find their skin exposed to more damage…resulting in sunburn! So, more melanin equals darker skin tone and
equals more protection from the sun’s harmful rays. The big takeaway from all this detail is that
those with more melanin, particularly eumelanin, are at decreased risk for skin cancer. And now, researchers have explored how that
level of protection can be artificially induced for those who don’t have it naturally. It turns out that the melanosomes that produce
the two different types of melanin have different pHs, and remember the melanosome is that little
pigment making machine inside your melanocytes. Eumelanin, the dark, highly protective pigment,
is produced by melanosomes that are less acidic than the melanosomes that produce pheomelanin. So researchers have posited–and now shown–that
they can actually change the relative amounts of which kind of melanin your melanosomes
produce. Inhibiting a certain enzyme, called sAC, can
make melanosome pH less acidic and allows those cells to produce more eumelanin–meaning
darker pigmentation and increased protection from skin cancer. We’re still not exactly sure why pH influences
what kind of melanin your melanosomes produce, and this is an area that researchers are hoping
to explore further. It’s important to note that this is different
from regulating melanin production by changing the way your genes are expressed, it’s not
genetic editing. This new research could instead result in
a pharmaceutical drug that induces pigment production– potentially for use by populations
vulnerable to skin cancer, or those with pigmentation conditions that they’d like to treat. This is still in the very early stages though,
being tested in mice and human skin cells in petri dishes. It’s a long way away from practical applications
in humans. Ok, so the science is super cool. But the color of someone’s skin has been something
that defines and often divides humans for millennia. So if it becomes possible for us to change
that color in a very fundamental way for medical purposes, what does that mean for our conception
of things like race? Would its use be ethical? The authors of the study note at the very
top of their research that skin pigmentation has not only health implications, but also
very important psychosocial ones- a reminder that science doesn’t happen in a vacuum
and its results and takeaways go out into an imperfect world…and that’s something
we need to consider. What do you think about this research? Let us know in the comments below, and keep
coming back to Seeker for all things science news. And, fun fact! The scientific word for sunburn is erythema
solare. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “Could Increasing the Melanin In Your Skin Protect You From Cancer?

  1. People with dark skin can still get skin cancer (even if the chances are lower) and show still use sunscreen when out in the sun for long periods of time.

  2. I have an idea for my WHITE FRIENDS just marry INDIANS as like NICK JONES did and your child will be safe from skin cancer.

  3. Maybe decreasing the melanin in your skin can protect you from sickle cell anemia, drive-by shootings, low SAT scores, addiction to malt liquor, late night fights at the waffle house, teenage pregnancy, being late for work, murders involving sneakers, and absentee fathers.

  4. Well if changing the colour of the skin could reduce the risk of cancer then it's a progress in the field of humanity. About Racism, this is 21st century and by the mid of it, we'd even forget that a term like "race" existed. It'd be science and logic around powered by healthy human growth, equal and alive.

  5. All the wannabe superior race and racists are hopefully crying rolled up in a corner. Not so superior hé after all. I hope they quite their wannabe superior race and get some mental help and hide from the sun.

    (I am talking about the racists and wannabe superior race thinking people.)
    So don't come for me. Ok.

  6. As I understand it, no matter your melanin content, staying out of direct sunlight will prevent premature aging of the skin.

  7. What it means is there is no such thing as race, there are only different groups of Humans reacting to different amounts of sun light exposure 😛

  8. my skin color is white and black combined and it looks like it is gonna turn white it has all these white things on me what is it

  9. Fertility rate for white women plummets BELOW the limit needed to maintain the population in every single US state

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6574435/White-women-lower-fertility-rates-state-rates-black-Hispanic-women-rise.html

    Got melanin! Let's discuss.

  10. You send the wrong message 2:44. And that's why this cancer is more violent on black skin, everybody needs protection from UV https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(16)30380-2/abstract Quote; "Conclusion: Despite higher incidence of cutaneous melanoma in whites, overall survival for cutaneous melanoma in non-whites was significantly lower. Our results suggest that more emphasis is needed for melanoma screening and awareness in non-white populations to improve survival outcomes."

  11. I mean I could use a tan especially if it would decrease my risk of cancer… I get the social thing; it’s a little controversial. However, I don’t think a small tan for super pale people would hurt anyone.

  12. Why be black or white with melanin when there are colors like fykoerytrine (red) or copper chlorophylin (green). Idk if this works but it would be fun!

  13. White humans are like bacon……..It looks fat and icky until it starts browning in the pan and then it looks tasty….I told my wife brown fat looks better than white fat, so go get some sun.

  14. Africans have no body hair too not even a beard majority of them, best way to be part of Darwin theory survival of the fittest start mix breeding

  15. George Washington breed slaves for this reason. You are allowed to know why African's are here in America. When the Europeans came here & murdered the Native American's they all would have died of cancer. That's karma. So They raped African's after they burned there language & religion in Africa.

  16. its funny racism exists and then white people want to increase melanin, which is basically asking to be black

    I GUESS THEY WANT MY BBC

  17. I think it would be great cause we would have one less reason to hate each other. This will never happen though because I feel God made so many different races to test is as human sinners to see if we can live through our differences and some like me can but a lot still hate just because skin is different color, racism is still very much alive today, sadly.

  18. That's it is so great, the first time in the history of the human race people can choose what color of skin they want to have

  19. What would happen if Glutathione was taken with a melanin booster?

    If hight levels of glutathione can lighten the skin, by Inhibiting tyrosinase enzymes. Would a melanin boost even work.

    Because, glutathione dose have a lot of other benefits as the mother of all antioxidant, and it would be interesting to see what would happen.

  20. I wish I had darker skin, smooth and flawless, luxuriously silky, velvety delicious chocolate golden skin like beautiful black people… They endure a living hell from ppl with pink skin but they stay looking young forever in spite of their mistreatment! Beautiful

  21. Duh. Basic evolution. Exposure to too much skin can cause skin cancer so people from sunnier, hotter parts of the world (Africas, Pacific Islanders, ect.) evolve as a natural defense from the sun as opposed to people from colder, gloomier parts (Europeans, eastern asians) who need to be whiter because they still need their exposure to the sun but spend all their time covered up because of said climate

  22. For those wanting to darken their skin, you'll of course get extra protection from the sun, and and also learn what it's like to get mis-treated by society for having that god-given skin color protection that I have 🙃🙃🙃🙃.

  23. I'm dark brown skinned and have never burned. Seems like my skin loves the sunshine. Guess I'm lucky in that regards. Funny how so many lightskinned people (not just white but lightskinned hispanics, indians, arabs and others) have issues with dark brown skin but that's their problem. I love it 🙂

  24. I'm black never had not one sun burn in my entire life don't know what it feels like to have one nice👍

    The comment section is just one be ass race war ya got ppl in here talking about IQs all types of shit you got your common white supremacist us humans are just so smart but so very ignorant at the same time and ya know what wait until one of them finds out that their not 100% of whatever race they are cause well humans been race mixing since the beginning…

  25. Theory:
    When global warming gets worse the UV rays may greater affect people with lighter complexions. Hence in years to come more cases of skin cancer will arise.

  26. Hey, I just want to know where they plan on getting that extra human melanin from. People of color…watch your backs. They very thing black people have been dehumanized, terrorized, discriminated against and hated for by “certain” people for, is the most expensive item on earth, melanin. These hypocrites hate us cause they ain’t us. The sun a natural occurrence that they can’t handle. They need melanin to survive the sun. Like some vampire story. Nature is killing them and they gonna look at melanated “hosts” to save them. The scientists have been at it for a long time. You would think they would have more respect for people of color. But…….nooooooooo

  27. so basically if i take melanin im probably going to have a hard time finding a job, constantly will get pulled over by the police and will eventually end up in prison and will have to change my name to lee roy

  28. This means Eurasians with the various derived alleles such as SLC24A5, SLC45A2, HERC TYR MCR1 or OCA etc by definition are albinoid humans.

  29. I'm 100 percent white, and love it. I would not change my skin color. If you're worried about skin cancer, don't get burned by the sun. Some sun is a need to get vitamin D, though.

  30. @seeker If having melanin is better, why people like light colored skin? Is there a scientific reason or just marketing?

    PS. Please keep your racist comments to yourself. I am not white guy.

  31. Makes sense why everyone hates black people…. jealous smh they new this thousand of years ago. Should we talk about human evolution when it comes to skin color now?

  32. Darker skin people are made for the sun . Every nationality has its own habitat Europeans are born in a colder climate. Mexicans , blacks and other races are born in warmer climates. European colonizers dont belong in warmer countries even certain states in America. Other races can pretty much go anywhere and they'll be fine.

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