Sunscreen ingredients inhibit inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS): a possible biochemical explanation for the sunscreen melanoma controversy

Melanoma Res. 2005 Feb;15(1):3-6. doi: 10.1097/00008390-200502000-00002.


Sunscreen products are rated upon their ability to inhibit visible redness of the skin 24 h after measured doses of ultraviolet (UV) exposure (Sun Protection Factor, SPF). Although sunscreens prevent UV-induced redness, their ability to protect against melanoma or the development of moles is less clear. UV-induced redness occurs in part by the action of nitric oxide (NO), synthesized in the skin. NO is also an important immunoregulatory molecule in the induction of the cell-mediated tumour immune response. In this study, various sunscreen ingredients were tested for their ability to inhibit the production of NO. Four of the five sunscreens tested directly inhibited the conversion of arginine to citrulline by inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in vitro. These findings suggest that sunscreens may prevent redness partly by UV absorption and partly by inhibition of the skin's inflammatory response. As such, sunscreens might promote instead of protect against melanoma.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arginine / metabolism*
  • Citrulline / metabolism*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Sunscreening Agents / pharmacology*


  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Citrulline
  • Arginine
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II