Broad-spectrum sunscreens provide greater protection against ultraviolet-radiation-induced suppression of contact hypersensitivity to a recall antigen in humans.J Invest Dermatol. 1997 Aug; 109(2):146-51.JI
This study investigates the extent to which sunscreens protect humans from ultraviolet (UV)-radiation-induced immunosuppression. In the presence of solar-simulated UV, three sunscreens with differing UVA transmission were assessed for their ability to protect the contact hypersensitivity (CHS) response to nickel of 16 nickel-allergic subjects. The sunscreens contained 2-ethylhexyl para-methoxycinnamate (cinnamate), cinnamate with oxybenzone, or cinnamate with zinc oxide, respectively. All had sun protection factors of 10 and hence inhibited UV erythema to similar extents. Volunteers were irradiated on their backs with suberythemal UV daily for 5 d after application of the sunscreens and their base lotion to different sites. Nickel-containing patches were then applied to both UV-treated sites and adjacent, unirradiated control sites. Erythema caused by nickel CHS at each site was quantitated 72 h later with a reflectance erythema meter. In comparison of the nickel reactions of irradiated and unirradiated skin, there was 35% mean immunosuppression in unprotected UV-treated skin. Significant immunosuppression also occurred at sites irradiated through the narrow-spectrum cinnamate-only sunscreen but was prevented by the two broad-spectrum sunscreens. To determine whether UV-induced suppression of the nickel response is specific for cell-mediated immunity or reflects suppression of nonspecific inflammation, a further 16 subjects were patch-tested with a skin irritant, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), following a sunscreen and irradiation protocol identical to that of the nickel volunteers. UV had no significant effect on SLS responses. We conclude that nickel patch testing is a valid means of assessing UV-induced immunosuppression in humans and that even with suberythemal UV, immune protection was provided only by sunscreens filtering both UVA and UVB.