Skin DNA photodamage and its biological consequences

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008 May;58(5 Suppl 2):S139-48. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2007.12.007.


It is well established that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight damages skin cells' DNA. Wavelengths in the UVB range are absorbed by DNA and can induce mutagenic lesions such as pyrimidine dimers. On the other hand, genotoxic effects of solar UVA are mainly mediated by the activation of endogenous photosensitizers resulting in the generation of a local oxidative stress. Exogenous chemicals, such as drugs like psoralens or fluoroquinolones, sometimes amplify UV-induced harmful effects. DNA damage can lead to mutations and genetic instability. This is one of the reasons why sunlight overexposure increases the risk of skin cancer. But DNA photolesions can also be involved in other skin-specific responses to UV radiation: erythema, immunosuppression, and melanogenesis are examples reported in the literature. The aim of this short review is to summarize the general knowledge in the field of UV-induced DNA damage. Besides the biological consequences of DNA photolesions, this article also deals with technologies used for their detection and shows how helpful such approaches can be to assess photoprotection provided by sunscreens.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Comet Assay
  • DNA Damage* / physiology
  • DNA Repair
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / physiology
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / chemically induced
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / physiology
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*


  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53