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Methods Enzymol. 2000;319:359-66.

Photocarcinogenesis: UVA vs UVB.

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Department of Dermatology, University Medical Center, Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Ultraviolet B and A radiations (respective wavelength ranges 280-315 and 315-400 nm) are present in sunlight at ground level. The ultraviolet radiation does not penetrate any deeper than the skin and has been associated with various types of human skin cancers. The carcinogenicity of UVB radiation is well established experimentally and, to a large extent, understood as a process of direct photochemical damage to DNA from which gene mutations arise. Although UVA is generally far less carcinogenic than UVB radiation, it is present more abundantly in sunlight than UVB radiation (> 20 times radiant energy) and can, therefore, contribute appreciably to the carcinogenicity of sunlight. In contrast to UVB, UVA radiation is hardly absorbed by DNA. Hence, the absorption by other molecules (endogenous photosensitizers) becomes more important, thus radicals and, more specifically, reactive oxygen species can be generated that can damage DNA, membranes, and other cellular constituents. These photochemical differences between UVA and UVB radiations are reflected in differences in cellular responses and carcinogenesis.

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