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BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 29 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1478

Research on volunteers in the United States has established one mechanism by which sunlight damages the skin: it causes a rise in matrix metalloproteinases, enzymes that degrade the collagen in the skin (New England Journal of Medicine1997;337:1419-28). Pretreatment of the skin with tretinoin inhibited this response to sunlight, suggesting that this drug might be useful in treating skin damaged by photo—aging and possibly in preventing the development of premalignant lesions.

Some new initiative is needed: Australia claims to lead the world in educating its population about skin cancer, and two thirds of those questioned recently by telephone claimed that they “didn't like to get a sun tan.” More people are wearing hats and using sunscreens (Medical Journal of Australia 1997;167:515-6). But the change in attitudes has slowed down, and just as there are recidivist smokers so, it seems, will some people continue to expose their skins to sunlight—which may be getting more damaging year by year as ozone holes widen.

Wheezy bronchitis in childhood is not only clinically distinguishable from asthma, its heritability is also clearly distinct (Thorax 1997;52:953-7). That is the conclusion of a study of the offspring of parents with the two conditions or with neither. The prevalence of current wheezing was lower in the offspring …

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