Several mechanisms are likely to be involved in the solar radiation-mediated modifications of cellular DNA. Direct excitation of DNA bases by the UVB component (290-320 nm) of solar light gives rise, mostly through oxygen independent reactions, to the formation of dimeric pyrimidine lesions including cyclobutadipyrimidines, pyrimidine (6-4) pyrimidone photoproducts and related valence Dewar isomers. In addition, photoexcitation of cytosine and guanine may lead to the formation in relatively minor yields of 6-hydroxy-5,6-dihydrocytosine and 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine, respectively. A second mechanism that requires the participation of endogenous photosensitizers together with oxygen is at the origin of most of the DNA damage generated by the UVA (320-400 nm) and visible light. Singlet oxygen, which arises from a type II mechanism, is likely to be mostly involved in the formation of 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanine that was observed within both isolated and cellular DNA. However, it may be expected that the latter oxidized purine lesion together with DNA strand breaks and pyrimidine base oxidation products are also generated with a lower efficiency through Fenton type reactions. A more definitive assessment of these mechanisms would require further studies aimed at the identification and quantification of the different DNA photolesions including both dimeric pyrimidine photoproducts and photooxidized lesions.