Background: The skin is repeatedly exposed to solar UV radiation. Long-term photodamage is a consequence of cumulative UV radiation injury. Hence an examination of the repetitive effects of UV exposure is more likely to yield clues to the early alterations that lead to photoaged skin than a single exposure. Objective: We examined the effects of repetitive low-dose UV irradiation on human skin with the aim of identifying UVA-induced effects that may have a different wavelength dependence than acute erythema. Methods: Areas on the lower part of the back were each exposed to a suberythemal dose (0.5 minimal erythema dose [MED]) of solar simulated radiation (290 to 400 nm) and of UVA (320 to 400 nm) once daily, 5 days a week, for 28 doses. One site was also treated daily with a sunscreen having a sun protection factor of 22 and then exposed to 11 MEDs of solar simulated radiation for the same duration. Epidermal and dermal changes were analyzed and quantified by histochemical stains in combination with computer-assisted image analysis of tissue sections. Results: At equal 0.5 MED doses, UVA induced greater cumulative changes than solar simulated radiation, as assessed by development of a greater cumulative erythema response in the first week of treatment, the presence of epidermal hyperplasia and stratum corneum thickening, depletion of Langerhans cells, dermal inflammatory infiltrates, and deposition of lysozyme on elastin fibers. These changes were not prevented by the sunscreen. A single short-term dose of UVA did not elicit these changes. Conclusion: These findings suggest that UVA may contribute significantly to long-term actinic damage and that the spectral dependence for cumulative damage does not parallel the action spectrum for acute injury (erythema) in human beings.
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