"However, long term use of chelators can be toxic for cells as it starves them of the iron necessary for normal biological processes, for example the red blood cells that transport oxygen around the body need iron to work."
Additional hurdles in the research were that many chelators are ineffective protectors of cells, and many of them are patented and so cannot be used freely by all researchers.
The researchers had to find chelators which were strong enough to export the excess iron out of cells, but that would not have an adverse effect on other essential cellular processes.
After three years of research, the team has designed two commercially attractive prototypes which are currently in laboratory trials.
The prototypes contain 'caged' iron binding sites which release the chelators only in response to high doses of UV light, thus avoiding toxicity to cells.
The new sunscreens containing these components will not only contribute to preventing and repairing skin damage caused by UV light, but will also be more effective and will last longer (up to three hours) after application on the skin than conventional sunscreen lotions.
Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK and the number of people who get it is increasing. There are over 70,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year in the UK and many cases are not reported so the real number of cases is probably much higher.
Over 2,000 people die from skin cancer each year in the UK.
Cancer Research UK has recently launched the SunSmart - the UK's national skin cancer prevention campaign. It is advising people to follow the smart advice: