Skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, is the most common form of cancer in North America. Paradoxically, skin cancer incidence is steadily on the rise even despite the growing use of sunscreens over the past decades. One potential explanation for this discrepancy involves the sun filters in sunscreen, which are responsible for blocking harmful ultraviolet radiation. It is proposed that these agents may produce reactive oxygen species (ROS) at the site of application, thereby generating oxidative stress in skin that gives rise to genetic mutations, which may explain the rising incidence of skin cancer. To test this hypothesis, ex vivo human skin was treated with five common chemical sun filters (avobenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and oxybenzone) as well as two physical sun filters (zinc oxide compounds), both with and without UV irradiation. To non-invasively evaluate oxidative stress, two-photon excitation fluorescence (2PEF) and fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) of the skin samples were used to monitor levels of NADH and FAD, two key cofactors in cellular redox metabolism. The relative redox state of the skin was assessed based on the fluorescence intensities and lifetimes of these endogenous cofactors. While the sun filters were indeed shown to have a protective effect from UV radiation, it was observed that they also generate oxidative stress in skin, even in the absence of UV light. These results suggest that sun filter induced ROS production requires more careful study, especially in how these reactive species impact the rise of skin cancer.
Sam Osseiran, Hequn Wang, Yusuke Suita, Elisabeth Roider, David E. Fisher, and Conor L. Evans, "Towards label-free evaluation of oxidative stress in human skin exposed to sun filters (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 9689, Photonic Therapeutics and Diagnostics XII, 968906 (Presented at SPIE BiOS: February 13, 2016; Published: 27 April 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2213406.4828028222001.
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