The Impact of the Circadian Clock on Skin Physiology and Cancer Development

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Jun 6;22(11):6112. doi: 10.3390/ijms22116112.


Skin cancers are growing in incidence worldwide and are primarily caused by exposures to ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths of sunlight. UV radiation induces the formation of photoproducts and other lesions in DNA that if not removed by DNA repair may lead to mutagenesis and carcinogenesis. Though the factors that cause skin carcinogenesis are reasonably well understood, studies over the past 10-15 years have linked the timing of UV exposure to DNA repair and skin carcinogenesis and implicate a role for the body's circadian clock in UV response and disease risk. Here we review what is known about the skin circadian clock, how it affects various aspects of skin physiology, and the factors that affect circadian rhythms in the skin. Furthermore, the molecular understanding of the circadian clock has led to the development of small molecules that target clock proteins; thus, we discuss the potential use of such compounds for manipulating circadian clock-controlled processes in the skin to modulate responses to UV radiation and mitigate cancer risk.

Keywords: DNA repair; UV radiation; cell cycle; circadian clock; genotoxicity; skin biology; skin cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology*
  • Carcinogenesis / radiation effects
  • Circadian Clocks / physiology*
  • Circadian Clocks / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin / pathology*
  • Skin / physiopathology*
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skin Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena* / radiation effects