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Mutat Res. 1999 Jul 21;444(1):49-60.

Illumination of human keratinocytes in the presence of the sunscreen ingredient Padimate-O and through an SPF-15 sunscreen reduces direct photodamage to DNA but increases strand breaks.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QU, UK.


On illumination with simulated sunlight, the UVB-absorbing sunscreen chemical 2-ethylhexyl-4-dimethylaminobenzoate (Padimate-O) generates excited species which inflict non-ligatable strand breaks on DNA in vitro and it also becomes mutagenic to yeast in vivo. Padimate-O is known to penetrate human skin but its effects on human cells are not clear. Here, we first simulate the sunlight which penetrates human skin and use it to illuminate human keratinocytes. The DNA damage observed in terms of UV-endonuclease-sensitive sites (ESS) and direct strand breaks per kilobase (kb) of DNA per joule per square metre agrees well with that predicted from action spectra based on monochromatic light. Using plasmid DNA in vitro, we find a very similar pattern of results. Next, we simulate the spectrum that results when the incident light is first attenuated by a film of sunscreen (SPF-15; 2 mg/cm(2)) containing benzophenone-3 (a UVA absorber), octyl methoxycinnamate (a UVB absorber), and Padimate-O. If the sunscreen is not in contact with keratinocytes it reduces direct DNA damage from sunlight (ESS). However, any Padimate-O in contact with the cells substantially increases indirect damage (strand breaks) even though the film of sunscreen reduces direct photodamage. We estimate that applying an SPF-15 sunscreen which contains Padimate-O to human skin followed by exposure to only 5 minimum erythemal doses (MED) of sunlight could, while suppressing the formation of ESS, increase strand breaks in cells under the epidermis by at least 75-fold compared to exposure to 1 MED in the absence of sunscreen.

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