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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Werninghaus Karl
item Meydani Mohsen
item Bhawan Jag
item Margolis R
item Blumberg Jeffrey
item Gilchrest B A

Submitted to: Archives Of Dermatology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/27/1993
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: The harmful effects of sunlight are well known. In normal skin, they include sunburn, premature aging, and cancer as consequences of repeated and/or long-term exposure to sunlight. Increased sensitivity to the sun is a feature of several diseases, and phototoxicity or harmful reactions to sunlight is the by-product of many topical and ingested substances. Therefore, the need to protect normal and sun-sensitive skin from the damaging effects of light is evident. We examined the effect of oral doses of vitamin E on skin exposed over six months to controlled doses of UV light (the harmful rays of sunlight) in healthy human subjects. The subjects were randomly assigned to the vitamin E group or a group given a placebo. There was no significant variation in the number of sunburn cells produced between the two groups. Levels of vitamin E in the blood did, however, increase in the vitamin E group, but their skin levels of vitamin E remained unchanged. Thus, we concluded that supplementation with vitamin E does not provide significant protection from the harmful effects of exposure to sunlight.

Technical Abstract: Solar-induced cutaneous damage is mediated partly via oxidative pathways. Some evidence exists for a photoprotective role of anti- oxidants. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, we examined the effect of long term, orally administered antioxidant against UV- induced epidermal damage. Healthy human subjects supplemented their usual diet daily with either 400 IU of oral vitamin E or a placebo over a 6 month period. Minimal erythema dose and histologic response to threefold minimal erythema dose exposure were determined at baseline, 1 month and 6 months. The minimal erythema dose did not vary substantially at the three time points with each treatment group or in the vitamin E-supplemented group bs the placebo group. The number of sunburn cells produced by a threefold minimal erythema dose was also not significantly different between the two groups. Of note, however, vitamin E levels in plasma increased only modestly and in skin biopsy specimens were un- changed following 1 month and 6 months of supplementation. No clinical or histologic difference in the response to UVB could be detected between the placebo and vitamin E-supplemented groups. In this small study, daily ingestion of 400 IU oral vitamin E daily does not provide meaning- ful photoprotection.

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