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FEBS Lett. 1993 Jun 21;324(3):309-13.

Sunlight-induced mutagenicity of a common sunscreen ingredient.

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


We have tested the mutagenicity of a UV-B sunscreen ingredient called Padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA, which, chemically speaking, is identical to an industrial chemical that generates free radicals when illuminated. It is harmless in the dark but mutagenic in sunlight, attacking DNA directly. A commercial sunscreen containing Padimate-O behaves in the same way. UV-A in sunlight also excites Padimate-O, although less than UV-B. Some related compounds, including a known carcinogen, behave similarly. As mutagens may be carcinogenic, our results suggest that some sunscreens could, while preventing sunburn, contribute to sunlight-related cancers.

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