Nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) is the most common cancer worldwide and the incidence continues to rise, in part due to increasing numbers in high-risk groups such as organ transplant recipients and those taking photosensitizing medications. The most significant risk factor for NMSC is ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from sunlight, specifically UVB, which is the leading cause of DNA damage, photoaging, and malignant transformation in the skin. Activation of apoptosis following UVR exposure allows the elimination of irreversibly damaged cells that may harbor oncogenic mutations. However, UVR also activates signaling cascades that promote the survival of these potentially cancerous cells, resulting in tumor initiation. Thus, the UVR-induced stress response in the skin is multifaceted and requires coordinated activation of numerous pathways controlling DNA damage repair, inflammation, and kinase-mediated signal transduction that lead to either cell survival or cell death. This review focuses on the central signaling mechanisms that respond to UVR and the subsequent cellular changes. Given the prevalence of NMSC and the resulting health care burden, many of these pathways provide promising targets for continued study aimed at both chemoprevention and chemotherapy.

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