Protective effects of lycopene against ultraviolet B-induced photodamage

Nutr Cancer. 2003;47(2):181-7. doi: 10.1207/s15327914nc4702_11.


Lycopene, an acyclic hydrocarbon carotenoid found in tomatoes and their products, is a well-established potent antioxidant, and its anticancer properties have been shown in cultured cells and animal models. We investigated the protective effects of two concentrations of topical lycopene against acute ultraviolet B (UVB)-induced photodamage. Application of lycopene dose dependently inhibited UVB-induced ornithine decarboxylase (P < 0.05) and myeloperoxidase (P < 0.05) and significantly reduced bifold skin thickness (P < 0.05). Immunohistochemical staining revealed increased active caspase-3 of apoptotic pathway in the UVB-exposed group compared with the unexposed control. Application of topical lycopene prevented the cleavage of caspase-3. UVB irradiation completely diminished proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), and the untreated skin maintained positively stained cells throughout the basal epidermis. Topical application of lycopene significantly reversed UVB-induced PCNA inhibition, and normal PCNA staining was restored in the lycopene-treated skin. Our results suggest that topical lycopene is able to exert its protective effects against acute UVB-induced photodamage. Furthermore, it may act as a preventative agent via inhibition of epidermal ornithine decarboxylase activity, reducing inflammatory responses, maintaining normal cell proliferation, and possibly preventing DNA damage as indicated by blocking the necessitating step of apoptosis following UVB injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Carotenoids / administration & dosage*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lycopene
  • Mice
  • Mice, Hairless
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / prevention & control*
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen / drug effects
  • Radiation-Protective Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen
  • Radiation-Protective Agents
  • Carotenoids
  • Casp3 protein, mouse
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases
  • Lycopene