On the 25th March 2017 MELGEN’s researchers from Leeds and Essen joined forces with Cancer Research UK, the UKs leading cancer charity, and took part in Be Curious 2017 at Leeds University. Part of the annual Leeds Festival of Science, Be Curious is a day when the University of Leeds opens its doors to showcase the research taking place in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) around the campus. The event is open to all, and aimed at families. MELGEN took its place in the ‘Health Zone’ and spent the day showing over 250 visitors the importance of being smart in the sun, maintaining good levels of vitamin D, and the role of DNA in melanoma.
UV light from the sun is the key environmental factor leading to most forms of melanoma and other skin cancers. Too much UV leads to sunburn which is a major risk factor, particularly when it happens in childhood/early life, for developing melanoma. Here Sathya demonstrates the effect of UV light: children made UV detector ‘suns’ with beads that change colour when UV light (supplied here by a special safe-UV torch) is absorbed. The children were encouraged to put the ‘sun’ in a near a window at home to see the colour change when the sun shines on it.
Vitamin D is necessary for good health. It is made by your body in response to the action of sun shining on your skin. We know, however, that too much sun results in sunburn and that increases your risk of developing melanoma skin cancer. For people with sun- sensitive skin (pale, burn easily, never tan, lots of freckles and moles) a safer way to obtain your vitamin D is through your diet. Here Renata and Sathya explain the levels of Vitamin D in different foods through a game. Can you arrange these food items in order of precentage of recommended daily intake of vitamin D provided? The answers left many of the visitors to our stand suprised!
Almost everyone now, even those of a young age, has heard of DNA and knows that ‘when DNA goes bad’ it can can give you diseases including cancers such as melanoma. At Be Curious we gave visitors the chance, not only to see DNA, but also to extract it themselves… from the humble strawberry. Here Rohit and Joey are taking a number of young visitors through the steps needed to extract DNA from a strawberry and, at the same time, explaining how UV can cause the changes in the DNA which can eventually lead to melanoma.
Be Curious was a great success and our researchers relished having the chance to get involved with people from the local region and show them the work MELGEN is involved with. Be Curious was all about making science fun, and our researchers certainly achived that, but we had a serious message to impart too, and we made sure every one went home with a leaflet about how to stay safe in the sun. We also shared some information about the workings of MELGEN and, if you would like a copy of the MELGEN leaflet shown you can download it here or from the Document Repository.