Chemoprevention of ultraviolet radiation-induced skin cancer

Environ Health Perspect. 1997 Jun;105 Suppl 4(Suppl 4):981-4. doi: 10.1289/ehp.97105s4981.


The use of chemical and physical sunscreening agents has increased dramatically during the last two to three decades as an effective means of preventing sunbum. The use of high sunprotection factor sunscreens has also been widely promoted for the prevention of skin cancer, including melanoma. Whereas sunscreens are undoubtedly effective in preventing sunbum, their efficacy in preventing skin cancer, especially melanoma, is currently under considerable debate. Sunscreens have been shown to prevent the induction of DNA damage that presumably results from the direct effects of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) on DNA. DNA damage has been identified as an initiator of skin cancer formation. However, both laboratory and epidemiological studies indicate that sunscreens may not block the initiation or promotion of melanoma formation. These studies suggest that the action spectrum for erythema induction is different than the action spectrum for the induction of melanoma. Indeed, recent reports on the wavelength dependency for the induction of melanoma in a fish model indicate that the efficacy of ultraviolet A wavelengths (320-400 nm) to induce melanoma is orders of magnitude higher than would be predicted from the induction of erythema in man or nonmelanoma skin tumors in mice. Other strategies for the chemoprevention of skin cancer have also been reported. Low levels and degree of unsaturation of dietary fats protect against UVR-induced skin cancer in mice humens. Compounds with antioxidant activity, including green tea extracts (polyphenols), have been reported to inhibit UVR-induced skin carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • DNA Damage
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / prevention & control*
  • Skin Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Sunscreening Agents / pharmacology
  • Ultraviolet Rays*


  • Antioxidants
  • Dietary Fats
  • Sunscreening Agents