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Arch Biochem Biophys. 2001 May 1;389(1):1-6.

UV light, beta-carotene and human skin--beneficial and potentially harmful effects.

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Department of Biological Chemistry and Nutrition, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany.


Solar radiation is one of the most important environmental stress agents for human skin, causing sunburn, premature skin aging, and skin cancer. Beta-carotene is discussed to protect against photooxidative stress and thus prevent skin damage. Though beta-carotene has been successfully used against photosensitivity in patients with erythropoietic protoporphyria, its beneficial potential in normal skin is still uncertain. A number of experimental studies indicate protective effects of beta-carotene against acute and chronic manifestations of skin photodamage. However, most clinical studies have failed to convincingly demonstrate its beneficial effects so far. Nevertheless, intake of oral beta-carotene supplements before sun exposure has been recommended on a population-wide basis. Recent studies on skin cells in culture have revealed that beta-carotene acts not only as an antioxidant but also has unexpected prooxidant properties. At present, there is an ongoing debate on the protective or potentially harmful role of beta-carotene in human skin.

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