Inhibition of solar simulator-induced p53 mutations and protection against skin cancer development in mice by sunscreens

J Invest Dermatol. 1999 May;112(5):763-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1747.1999.00564.x.


We demonstrated previously that p53 mutations can be detected in ultraviolet B-irradiated mouse skin months before the gross appearance of skin tumors and that applying sun protection factor 15 sunscreens to mouse skin before each Kodacel-filtered FS40 sunlamp irradiation resulted in the reduction of such mutations. To determine whether there is an association between reduction of ultraviolet-induced p53 mutations by sunscreens and protection against skin cancer using an environmentally relevant light source, we applied sunscreens (sun protection factors 15-22) on to the shaved dorsal skin of C3H mice 30 min before each exposure to 4.54 kJ ultraviolet B (290-400 nm) radiation per m2 from a solar simulator. Control mice were treated 5 d per wk with ultraviolet only or vehicle plus ultraviolet. p53 mutation analysis indicated that mice exposed to ultraviolet only or vehicle plus ultraviolet for 16 wk (cumulative exposure to 359 kJ ultraviolet B per m2) developed p53 mutations at a frequency of 56%-69%, respectively, but less than 5% of mice treated with sunscreens plus ultraviolet showed evidence of p53 mutations. More importantly, 100% of mice that received a cumulative dose of 1000 kJ ultraviolet B per m2 only, or vehicle plus ultraviolet B developed skin tumors, whereas, the probability of tumor development in all the mice treated with the sunscreens plus 1000 kJ ultraviolet B per m2 was 2% and mice treated with sunscreens plus 1500 kJ ultraviolet B per m2 was 15%. These results demonstrate that the sunscreens used in this study not only protect mice against ultraviolet-induced p53 mutations, but also against skin cancers induced with solar-simulated ultraviolet. Because of this association, we conclude that inhibition of p53 mutations is a useful early biologic endpoint of photoprotection against an important initiating event in ultraviolet carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C3H
  • Mutation
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms
  • Sunscreening Agents / pharmacology*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics*
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53