Tanning, p53 and PCMR


Evil under the sun

Constitutive pigmentation protects against melanoma; dark-skinned individuals are at much less risk of developing melanoma than those with fair skin and consequently a propensity to sunburn. For those with fair skin, nature has provided tanning as a mechanism that increases protection against ultraviolet (UV)-induced DNA damage. One could therefore argue that having a suntan is a good thing, but acquiring one can be dangerous, given that UV irradiation generates DNA damage that may lead to melanoma or other skin cancers. Despite increasing public awareness of the dangers of excessive sun exposure and its association with melanoma, fashion has driven a substantial increase in the numbers of tanning salons that, in return for payment, will provide a generous dose of UV irradiation for individuals not content with their constitutive level of pigmentation. Bodies representing the tanning industry argue that a tan is a good thing, and that exposure to the sun is healthy and required for the synthesis of vitamin D. But within the scientific and medical community, there is increasing unease the way in which tanning is marketed as being solely beneficial and the dangers of UV exposure are downplayed. In this issue, three Perspectives from David Fisher, Marianne Berwick and Dorothy Bennett redress the balance and examine the science behind tanning. It is hoped that by placing the benefits and dangers of UV irradiation in the scientific spotlight, the validity of the claims for and against the tanning industry may be revealed.

p53 and melanoma

p53 is widely termed the guardian of the genome and in most cancers mutations in p53 suppress apoptosis and senescence and facilitate progression of the disease. Yet, in melanoma, p53 is normally Wild Type. So why does it not perform its guardian role and prevent melanomagenesis? Several potential mechanisms acting to undermine the protective role of p53 have been identified, including loss of p14ARF that normally inhibits the capacity of MDM2 to induce p53 degradation, and the role of the anti-senescence factors Tbx2 and Tbx3 to suppress p53-mediated activation of its key downstream target, p21. The presence of WT p53 in melanoma also raises the intriguing possibility that p53, rather than simply being inactivated indirectly, in fact may play a positive role in disease progression. Indeed recent advances have pointed towards a role for p53 in regulation of pigmentation. The importance, role and regulation of p53 in melanoma and tanning is covered in this issue in the review from Neil Box.

The impact of the impact factor

In June this year, we were able to announce with some satisfaction that the impact factor of Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research had increased substantially. The increase presumably occurred because more people found the journal of interest to their own research and consequently cited the papers published more often. The increase in impact factor, however, appears to have made the journal a more interesting place for many to publish in and has led to an almost fourfold increase in submissions. While we wish to serve the readership as best as we can by maintaining the broad scope of the journal, pressure on space means that the journal cannot publish four times as many papers. This has a number of consequences, the most obvious being, a great many authors will find that their manuscripts do not meet the criteria for publication in the journal that includes, in addition to sound science, some measure of interest to as wide an audience as possible. A second consequence is that the mechanism of handling manuscripts has to change. Simply put, as Editor-in-Chief I can no longer single handedly sustain the rapid processing of the increased volume of papers submitted. As a result, and in line with the gradual hand-over to the new Editor-in-Chief, Ze’ev Ronai, who will be responsible for compiling the first issue of 2010, a number of changes will be introduced into the manuscript submission process, the most obvious of which will be the adoption of an online submission mechanism. As an author, I find online submission to most journals a painful business, which is why for the past few years at PCMR, the instructions to authors for submission has remained simply ‘send a PDF to the editor’. The new system for submission should be in place by the end of 2008, but for authors, it will be kept as simple as possible. In addition, an editorial assistant will check that each submitted manuscript fulfils the journal criteria for image quality, etc. This again should save time as at present too many manuscripts are submitted with figures well below the acceptable resolution for publication and this causes delays when the paper is passed on to the publisher for typesetting. One final change is that the layout of papers published in PCMR has been modified to accommodate a ‘Significance paragraph’, the purpose of which is to give authors more opportunity to explain to the editors, referees and readership why their work is important. This should allow authors to place their work in a wider context and should not simply be a reworking of the abstract. It also reminds many authors that this is an important part of the review process as at present too many manuscripts are submitted, where the results are presented but no explanation is given as to why the study was undertaken or what is the significance of the data generated. While I regret the need to change the submission process, it is likely to increase the efficiency of manuscript handling and will therefore be beneficial. Time will tell.