There is increasing concern about the adverse health effects associated with the use of sunbeds, particularly with respect to skin photocarcinogenesis. The induction of mutagenic DNA damage is a prerequisite for the development of skin tumours, and it is well established that direct types of damage such as cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers (CPDs) give rise to mutations in tumour suppressor genes and oncogenes. In addition, ultraviolet radiation may induce indirect types of DNA damage, including oxidative products, which are also potentially mutagenic. By using specific DNA repair enzymes (T4 endonuclease V and endonuclease III) and the comet assay we have been able to detect the induction of CPDs, oxidized or hydrated pyrimidine bases and single-strand breaks in cultured human fibroblasts (MRC-5) after exposure for between 15 s and 20 min on two different commercial sunbeds containing Philips 'Performance' 100W-R or Philips TL80W/10R lamps. The ratio of endonuclease III to T4 endonuclease V sensitive sites varied substantially between the two lamps and was 3.3% and 18%, respectively. The sunbed containing the 'Performance' 100W-R lamps was as potent at inducing CPDs as was natural sunlight in fine weather. These results establish that commercial tanning lamps produce the types of DNA damage associated with photocarcinogenesis in human cells, and complement epidemiological evidence indicating the potential risk of using sunbeds.
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