Role of reactive oxygen species in skin carcinogenesis

Antioxid Redox Signal. 2004 Jun;6(3):561-70. doi: 10.1089/152308604773934314.


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are associated not only with initiation, but also with promotion and progression in the multistage carcinogenesis model. In the present review, we will focus on the involvement of ROS in skin carcinogenesis, especially that induced by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV-specific DNA damage has been well studied thus far. However, recent reports have revealed the previously unknown participation of oxidative stress in UV-induced skin carcinogenesis. Indeed, in addition to transition-type mutations at dipyrimidine sites, G:C to T:A transversions, which may be induced by the presence of 8-oxoguanine during DNA replication, are frequently observed in the ras oncogene and p53 tumor suppressor gene in human skin cancers of sun-exposed areas and in UV-induced mouse skin cancers. Recent studies have shown that not only UV-B, but also UV-A is involved in UV-induced carcinogenesis. A wide variety of biological phenomena other than direct influence by UV, such as inflammatory and immunological responses and oxidative modifications of DNA and proteins, appear to play roles in UV-induced skin carcinogenesis. Furthermore, it has become clear that genetic diseases such as xeroderma pigmentosum show deficient repair of oxidatively modified DNA lesions. The involvement of ROS in skin carcinogeneisis caused by arsenic and chemical carcinogens will also be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Damage
  • Genes, p53
  • Guanine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Guanine / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / pathology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • 8-hydroxyguanine
  • Guanine
  • DNA