The Effect of Suntan Parlor Exposure on Delayed and Contact Hypersensitivity


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Cutaneous and systemic immune function are believed to play an important role in cutaneous carcinogenesis. We therefore sought to determine whether the suntan parlor radiation sources commonly used in the United States cause measurable qualitative suppression of immune function and quantitative alterations in circulating T cell subpopulations. Subjects (n = 22) were recruited and randomly assigned to receive suntan parlor exposures (10 full-body UV exposures over a 2 week period, shielding only the right flexural arm) or no exposure. Baseline circulating T lymphocyte subpopulations (T helper lymphocyte, CD4; T suppressor/cytotoxic lymphocyte, CD8) were measured. Two weeks later (upon completion of UV exposures for those in this group), circulating T cell subpopulations were measured and dinitrochlorobenzene (DNCB) sensitization (in the UV group, on the UV-exposed buttock) was performed. Subsequent DNCB elicitation was performed in a bilateral fashion (in the UV group, on the right UV-shielded and the left UV-exposed upper arm). We found that subjects in the UV group demonstrated localized suppression of contact hypersensitivity sensitization and elicitation and also an increase in circulating CD8 cells when compared to the control group (P≤ 0.05). We conclude that suntan parlor exposures, as typically received in this country, suppress contact hypersensitivity and increase the circulating T suppressor/cytotoxic cell number quantity.