Skin Cancer Induced by Pollution-Mediated ROS

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The incidence of skin cancer is indeed alarming. More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined. In the USA, one in five will develop skin cancer by the age of 70; each year, more than 24,000 Americans die of skin cancers – the most lethal of which are increased by environmental pollution. Physicians have realized for decades that UVB initiates skin cancer, but only recently have medical researchers learned that UVA interacts with airborne pollutants synergistically to initiate and promote skin cancer. Also, ubiquitous environmental pollutants – including ozone, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) which oxidize epidermal lipids, inducing a cascade of cellular stress reactions that can initiate skin cancer. Furthermore, environmental toxins are carried on the surface and within the core of particulate matter (PM). This PM can be absorbed cutaneously to deep epidermal layers and can enter the dermis through hair follicles as well as via blood flow after respiratory pulmonary absorption. The xenobiotic pollutants act by binding to the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR), a ligand-activated transcription factor found in all types of skin cells – keratinocytes, melanocytes, fibroblasts, and dermal dendritic cells. For full protection from the environmental damage (extrinsic aging and skin cancer), certainly sunscreens that filter UVA as well as UVB are necessary, but sunscreens are not enough! To combat the dangerous oxidative damage induced by airborne pollutants, correctly formulated topical antioxidants can effectively protect.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Oxidative Stress in Cancer
Subtitle of host publicationMechanistic Aspects
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9789811594113
ISBN (Print)9789811594106
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Air pollution
  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR)
  • Ozone
  • Particulate matter
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH)
  • Reactive oxygen species (ROS)
  • Skin cancer
  • UV radiation


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