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Editorial, JCMS Vol. 3(5)

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As dermatologists, we have all been active in educating patients about sun awareness and sun protection. This is even more important for children, as childhood exposure to ultraviolet light is a significant risk for both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers. The importance of an educational approach in appropriate sun awareness in childhood is further underscored by the recent findings by Rivers et al., in the Vancouver Moles Cohort study, presented at the 1999 American Academy of Dermatology meeting. In a placebo-controlled trial, the findings of Rivers et al. clearly demonstrated that the use of sunscreens can significantly decrease the formation of nevae in children, providing further evidence to support sun awareness education initiatives. The lead article by Gooderham and Guenther in the Basic and Clinical Sciences section evaluates the effectiveness of a particular sun awareness program, and gives valuable insights into how more effective approaches may be used in the future.

In addition to ultraviolet light playing a causal role in cutaneous malignancies, it is known to induce a number of other skin problems. One particularly difficult group of disorders is the photosensitive dermatoses, including solar urticaria. Bissonnette et al. describe an innovative approach to the management of refractory solar urticaria with plasma exchange.

In the Grand Rounds section, Strauss et al. review the case of an acute SLE and give an insightful discussion related to bullous eruptions in acutely ill children.

The mechanism of ultraviolet-light-induced carcinogenesis involves UV-induced DNA damage. Over the past decade, it has become clear that tumour suppressor genes can regulate these processes. In the Review section, Tron et al. discuss the role of the suppressor gene p53, which is mutated or lost in nonmelanoma skin cancer. P53 is crucial in protecting keratinocytes from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, and in their instructive article, these authors use gene-targeted mutant mice lacking p53 to further evaluate the role in UV-induced DNA damage.

With the warm weather upon us, we are spending more time in the outdoors and, as a result, are exposed to a vast number of environmental onslaughts. These include such things as Rickettsial disease, summarized in our CME section Summary Notes. Furthermore, in a comprehensive review, Dr. Sasseville examines another outdoor threat as he delineates the wide spectrum of plant contact dermatitis. This represents an important and in-depth reference on phytodermatitis.

Our specialty, and indeed all of medicine, is being dramatically altered by recent advances in our understanding of disease at a molecular level. This new understanding of disease has led to the potential of modifying gene expression through the use of gene therapy. This is particularly attractive in skin disease, where gene therapy can be delivered quite readily through the skin. This advancement is insightfully discussed in the article by Somani et al., "Gene Therapy and Dermatology," which is both valuable for the cognoscenti and noncognoscenti alike, and serves as an important reference work in this area.

Daniel N. Sauder
Division of Dermatology
University of Toronto

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