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Is Sunscreen Effective in Preventing DNA Damage?

Are topical sunscreens effective in preventing UV radiation-induced DNA damage in vivo?

There is strong evidence that topical sunscreens, designed to protect against UV radiation-induced erythema, decrease the amount of UVR to which the skin is exposed. However, their effectiveness in reducing UV radiation-induced DNA damage in vivo has not been well quantified.

A study recently published in Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine reviewed published literature from 1990 to 2015 to determine whether sunscreens prevent DNA damage in human skin when applied prior to UV radiation exposure.

Researchers included ten experimental studies measuring UV radiation-induced DNA damage in human skin in vivo, with and without sunscreens.

Despite differences in methodological approaches – including the sun protection factors of the sunscreens assessed, range of skin types examined, the UV radiation exposure time and dose, the timing of post-irradiation biopsies and in the markers of damage examined – all studies reported markedly reduced (or nil) UV radiation-induced DNA damage on sunscreen-protected skin.

The study concluded that a review of the experimental evidence supports a protective effect of topical sunscreens in preventing UV radiation-induced DNA damage in human skin cells in vivo.

Read more recent research on the effectiveness of sunscreen.


Olsen, C. M. et al. (May 2017.) Prevention of DNA damage in human skin by topical sunscreens. Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine. Volume 33. Issue 3. Pages 135-142. DOI: 10.1111/phpp.12298.

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