Responses of black and white skin to solar-simulating radiation: differences in DNA photodamage, infiltrating neutrophils, proteolytic enzymes induced, keratinocyte activation, and IL-10 expression

J Invest Dermatol. 2004 Jun;122(6):1448-55. doi: 10.1111/j.0022-202X.2004.22609.x.


Black skin is more resistant to the deleterious effects of ultraviolet radiation than white skin. A higher melanin content and a different melanosomal dispersion pattern in the epidermis are thought to be responsible for this. Our purpose was to compare skin responses in black and white skin following exposure to solar-simulating radiation (SSR) to further investigate the photoprotective properties of black skin. Six volunteers of skin phototype I-III (white) were exposed to (doses measured directly with a Waldmann UV detector device) 12,000-18,000 mJ per cm2 (2 MED) of SSR and compared with six volunteers of skin phototype VI (black) exposed to 18,000 mJ per cm2 (<1 MED) of SSR. The presence and distribution of skin pigment, DNA photodamage, infiltrating neutrophils, photoaging associated proteolytic enzymes, keratinocyte activation, and the source of interleukin 10 (IL-10) in skin biopsies taken before and after exposure were studied. In all white skinned subjects, 12,000-18,000 mJ per cm2 of SSR induced DNA damage in epidermal and dermal cells, an influx of neutrophils, active proteolytic enzymes, and diffuse keratinocyte activation. Additionally, in three of the white skinned volunteers IL-10 positive neutrophils were found to infiltrate the epidermis. Except for DNA damage in the supra basal epidermis, none of these changes was found in black skinned subjects. Increased skin pigmentation appears to be primarily responsible for the observed differences in skin responses. Our data could provide an explanation as to why black skin is less susceptible to sunburn, photoaging, and skin carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blacks
  • DNA Damage*
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-10 / metabolism*
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Keratinocytes / pathology
  • Keratinocytes / radiation effects*
  • Male
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1 / metabolism
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / metabolism*
  • Neutrophils / pathology
  • Skin Aging / immunology
  • Skin Aging / pathology
  • Skin Aging / radiation effects
  • Skin Pigmentation / radiation effects*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Whites


  • Interleukin-10
  • Endopeptidases
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1