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J Photochem Photobiol B. 1991 May;9(2):135-60.

Photoprotection by melanin.

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Wellman Laboratories of Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston 02114.


This paper is an attempt to summarize the current state of information on melanin and epidermal melanin pigmentation (EMP) as photoprotective agents. The chemistry and biochemistry of melanin (the particle) and its interaction, in its various forms, with UV radiation are considered. Methods of attenuation of UV radiation are discussed in terms of structure and chemical constituents. Photoprotection by constitutive and facultative pigmentation is reviewed with minimum erythema dose (MED) as the end point. The issue of acclimatization to UV radiation is discussed in terms of UVB phototherapy for psoriasis. Finally, skin cancer is considered as an end point and the reduction of its incidence with pigment level is discussed. It is concluded that whilst EMP provides protection, its extent depends on the end point chosen for evaluation. MED is a convenient photobiological end point but is rather insensitive, whereas skin cancer is sensitive but impractical for laboratory studies. Our current state of knowledge of melanin lacks information on its absorption and scattering coefficients and its refractive index. Methods for the quantitative measurement of EMP are also urgently required.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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