Ultraviolet Radiations: Skin Defense-Damage Mechanism

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017:996:71-87. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-56017-5_7.


UV-radiations are the invisible part of light spectra having a wavelength between visible rays and X-rays. Based on wavelength, UV rays are subdivided into UV-A (320-400 nm), UV-B (280-320 nm) and UV-C (200-280 nm). Ultraviolet rays can have both harmful and beneficial effects. UV-C has the property of ionization thus acting as a strong mutagen, which can cause immune-mediated disease and cancer in adverse cases. Numbers of genetic factors have been identified in human involved in inducing skin cancer from UV-radiations. Certain heredity diseases have been found susceptible to UV-induced skin cancer. UV radiations activate the cutaneous immune system, which led to an inflammatory response by different mechanisms. The first line of defense mechanism against UV radiation is melanin (an epidermal pigment), and UV absorbing pigment of skin, which dissipate UV radiation as heat. Cell surface death receptor (e.g. Fas) of keratinocytes responds to UV-induced injury and elicits apoptosis to avoid malignant transformation. In addition to the formation of photo-dimers in the genome, UV also can induce mutation by generating ROS and nucleotides are highly susceptible to these free radical injuries. Melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) has been known to be implicated in different UV-induced damages such as pigmentation, adaptive tanning, and skin cancer. UV-B induces the formation of pre-vitamin D3 in the epidermal layer of skin. UV-induced tans act as a photoprotection by providing a sun protection factor (SPF) of 3-4 and epidermal hyperplasia. There is a need to prevent the harmful effects and harness the useful effects of UV radiations.

Keywords: Melanin; Melanoma; Skin cancer; UV radiations; Vitamin-D.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / radiation effects
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / immunology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / immunology
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Keratinocytes / radiation effects
  • Melanins / metabolism
  • Melanoma / etiology*
  • Melanoma / genetics
  • Melanoma / immunology
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Mutagenesis / radiation effects
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology*
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / genetics
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / immunology
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / metabolism
  • Radiodermatitis / etiology*
  • Radiodermatitis / genetics
  • Radiodermatitis / immunology
  • Radiodermatitis / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / radiation effects
  • Skin / immunology
  • Skin / metabolism
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / genetics
  • Skin Neoplasms / immunology
  • Skin Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • fas Receptor / metabolism


  • Melanins
  • fas Receptor