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Photochem Photobiol. 1989 Oct;50(4):515-24.

Effects of ultraviolet radiation on the immune system in humans.


In experimental animals, exposure to UV-B radiation produces selective alterations of immune function which are mainly in the form of suppression of normal immune responses. This immune suppression is important in the development of nonmelanoma skin cancer, may influence the development and course of infectious disease and possibly protects against autoimmune reactions. The evidence that this form of immune suppression occurs in humans is less compelling and very incomplete. The wavelengths of radiation most affected by a depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer are those known to be most immunosuppressive in animals and it is likely that such depletion will increase any suppressive effect of sunlight on immunity in humans. In addition to establishing whether or not UV-B radiation can cause suppression of immune function in humans, studies are required to determine if melanin can provide protection against such suppression, the role of this suppression in the pathogenesis of skin cancer, the development of infectious disease and vaccine effectiveness, and the capacity for humans to develop adaptive, protective mechanisms which may limit damage from continued exposure to UV-B radiation.

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