Role of UV light in photodamage, skin aging, and skin cancer: importance of photoprotection

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2009;10 Suppl 1:19-24. doi: 10.2165/0128071-200910001-00004.


Solar, and particularly UV, radiation causes molecular and cellular damage with resultant histopathologic and clinical degenerative changes, leading in turn to photosensitivity, photo-aging, and skin cancer. While our bodies have some natural UV defenses, additional protection from the sun is essential, including sun avoidance, physical protection, and sunscreen use. Sun avoidance includes limiting exposure during peak UV times (10am-4pm), avoiding UV-reflective surfaces such as sand, snow and water, and eliminating photosensitizing drugs. Physical protection includes wearing photoprotective clothing such as a broad-brimmed hat and long sleeves and use of UV-blocking films on windows. Sunscreen containing avobenzone, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or encamsule should be used daily and frequently reapplied. To guard against the UVB spectrum, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are particularly recommended. Sunscreen is generally under-applied at only 25% of the recommended dose, seriously compromising photoprotection. Dosage guidelines recommend using more than half a teaspoon each on head and neck area and each arm, and more than a teaspoon each on anterior torso, posterior torso, and each leg (approximately 2 mg/cm(2)).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Skin Aging* / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Sunscreening Agents / administration & dosage
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Vitamin D


  • Antioxidants
  • Sunscreening Agents
  • Vitamin D