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J Invest Dermatol. 2003 Oct;121(4):869-75.

High ultraviolet A protection affords greater immune protection confirming that ultraviolet A contributes to photoimmunosuppression in humans.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA.


Solar radiation causes immunosuppression that contributes to skin cancer growth. Photoprotective strategies initially focused on the more erythemogenic ultraviolet B. More recently, the relationship of ultraviolet A and skin cancer has received increased attention. We hypothesized that if ultraviolet A contributes significantly to human ultraviolet-induced immune suppression, then increased ultraviolet A filtration by a sunscreen would better protect the immune system during ultraviolet exposure. Two hundred and eleven volunteers were randomized into study groups and received solar-simulated radiation, ranging from 0 to 2 minimum erythema dose, on gluteal skin, with or without sunscreen, 48 h prior to sensitization with dinitrochlorobenzene. Contact hypersensitivity response was evaluated by measuring the increase in skin fold thickness of five graded dinitrochlorobenzene challenge sites on the arm, 2 wk after sensitization. Clinical scoring using the North American Contact Dermatitis Group method was also performed. Solar-simulated radiation dose-response curves were generated and immune protection factor was calculated using a nonlinear regression model. Significance of immune protection between study groups was determined with the Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon exact test. The sunscreen with high ultraviolet A absorption (ultraviolet A protection factor of 10, based on the in vivo persistent pigment darkening method) and a labeled sun protection factor of 15 demonstrated better immune protection than the product that had a low ultraviolet A absorption (ultraviolet A protection factor of 2) and a labeled sun protection factor of 15. Nonlinear regression analysis based on skin fold thickness increase revealed that the high ultraviolet A protection factor sunscreen had an immune protection factor of 50, more than three times its sun protection factor, whereas the low ultraviolet A protection factor sunscreen had an immune protection factor of 15, which was equal to its labeled sun protection factor. This study demonstrates that ultraviolet A contributes greatly to human immune suppression and that a broad-spectrum sunscreen with high ultraviolet A filtering capacity results in immune protection that exceeds erythema protection. These results show that high ultraviolet A protection is required to protect against ultraviolet-induced damage to cutaneous immunity.

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