The incidence rate of melanoma is higher in fair-skinned than in dark-skinned individuals. In negroid skin there is more eumelanin which is present in all skin layers and fewer polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) than in caucasoid skin. The western diet, which is rich in omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, is associated with more proneness to cancer including cutaneous melanoma. To study the respective influence of omega-6 PUFA and low phototype melanocytes on redox status -basal and following UV irradiation-, we used epidermal reconstructs. The addition of polyunsaturated fatty acids as well as the presence of low phototype melanocytes affected basal status similarly except for catalase activity, which decreased significantly in polyunsaturated fatty acid-supplemented reconstructs. Following UV, polyunsaturated fatty acids and low phototype melanocytes increased lipid and protein oxidative damage without affecting direct DNA damage. However, polyunsaturated fatty acids increased epidermal apoptosis whereas low phototype melanocytes decreased it. Since our data suggest that an omega-6 PUFA rich-diet may increase oxidative damage in melanocytes without inducing apoptosis, the long-term net outcome could be cumulated mutations and an increased risk of skin cancer, especially melanoma.
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