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We have tested the mutagenicity of a UV-B sunscreen ingredient called Padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA, which, chemically speaking, is identical to an industrial chemical that generates free radicals when illuminated. It is harmless in the dark but mutagenic in sunlight, attacking DNA directly. A commercial sunscreen containing Padimate-O behaves in the same way. UV-A in sunlight also excites Padimate-O, although less than UV-B. Some related compounds, including a known carcinogen, behave similarly. As mutagens may be carcinogenic, our results suggest that some sunscreens could, while preventing sunburn, contribute to sunlight-related cancers.


Journal article



Publication Date





309 - 313


4-Aminobenzoic Acid, Cell Division, Mutagenicity Tests, Mutagens, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Sunscreening Agents, Time Factors, Ultraviolet Rays, para-Aminobenzoates