The role of antioxidants in skin cancer prevention and treatment

Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2014:2014:860479. doi: 10.1155/2014/860479. Epub 2014 Mar 26.


Skin cells are constantly exposed to reactive oxygen species (ROS) and oxidative stress from exogenous and endogenous sources. UV radiation is the most important environmental factor in the development of skin cancer and skin aging. The primary products caused by UV exposure are generally direct DNA oxidation or generation of free radicals which form and decompose extremely quickly but can produce effects that can last for hours, days, or even years. UV-induced generation of ROS in the skin develops oxidative stress when their formation exceeds the antioxidant defense ability. The reduction of oxidative stress can be achieved on two levels: by lowering exposure to UVR and/or by increasing levels of antioxidant defense in order to scavenge ROS. The only endogenous protection of our skin is melanin and enzymatic antioxidants. Melanin, the pigment deposited by melanocytes, is the first line of defense against DNA damage at the surface of the skin, but it cannot totally prevent skin damage. A second category of defense is repair processes, which remove the damaged biomolecules before they can accumulate and before their presence results in altered cell metabolism. Additional UV protection includes avoidance of sun exposure, usage of sunscreens, protective clothes, and antioxidant supplements.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Glutathione / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Retinoids / therapeutic use
  • Skin Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Vitamin E / therapeutic use
  • beta Carotene / therapeutic use


  • Antioxidants
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Retinoids
  • beta Carotene
  • Vitamin E
  • Glutathione
  • Ascorbic Acid