Numerous studies have indicated that the activities of the polyamine biosynthetic enzymes, ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) and S-adenosyl methionine decarboxylase (SAM.D) are increased in hyperplastic and neoplastic growth. The levels of the polyamines themselves, putrescine, spermidine, and spermine are also often altered in these situations. Epidermal ODC activity is greatly elevated in response to tumor promoting chemicals and also in response to irradiation with short-wave length and mid-wave length ultraviolet. In addition, the levels of the epidermal polyamines change after mid-wavelength ultraviolet irradiation, leading to elevation of putrescine and spermidine, but depression of the spermine level. The spermidine to spermine ratio was significantly elevated after chronic ultraviolet irradiation. Preliminary studies on human skin also shows that mid-wavelength ultraviolet light is capable of inducing ODC. Different pharmacological agents have been found to significantly inhibit the ultraviolet induction of epidermal ODC. Topical corticosteroids and indomethacin significantly inhibit ultraviolet induced opidermal ODC. In addition, retinoic acid inhibited the ultraviolet induction of this enzyme in some experimental situations. Long-wave length ultraviolet alone produced no significant induction of ODC, however, certain phototoxic drugs (8-methoxypsoralen and anthracene) in combination with long-wave length ultraviolet did induce epidermal ODC. It is possible that further studies of changing epidermal polyamine metabolism in response to ultraviolet and tumor promoting agents, may lead to a greater understanding of cutaneous carcinogenesis.