Immune regulation by polysaccharides: implications for skin cancer

J Photochem Photobiol B. 2001 Oct;63(1-3):132-40. doi: 10.1016/s1011-1344(01)00210-x.


UV radiation causes sunburn, premature aging of the skin and is the major environmental carcinogen for squamous cell and basal cell skin cancer in humans. Besides causing mutations in DNA, UV radiation contributes to carcinogenesis by suppressing immune responses to highly antigenic, newly arising neoplasms. Strategies aimed at preventing UV-induced immune suppression, the mechanism of action of the agents used, and the significance of immune protection for prevention of skin cancer are reviewed. This review focuses on the use of plant polysaccharides to prevent immune damage triggered by UV radiation, an approach that goes beyond absorption of UV radiation by sunscreens as a means of reducing tissue damage. The efficacy and mechanism of action of these agents in preserving T cell-mediated immunity to model antigens in human beings and in laboratory animals are discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell / immunology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / immunology*
  • Cytoprotection
  • Humans
  • Immunity / radiation effects
  • Oligosaccharides / immunology
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polysaccharides / immunology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects


  • Oligosaccharides
  • Plant Extracts
  • Polysaccharides