Inhibition or deletion of cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 has been demonstrated to protect against squamous cell cancer in many studies. Although much effort has focused on COX-2 inhibition, recent work indicates that COX-1 deletion may be nearly as protective. In this study, we used SKH-1 hairless mice in which COX-1 was selectively deleted to examine the role of COX-1 in photocarcinogenesis. After UV exposure, 40-60% less prostaglandin E2 was detected in COX-1-/- animals compared with wild-type (WT) controls. A 4-fold induction of keratinocyte apoptosis was observed in knockouts relative to WT animals, as documented by terminal de. oxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT)-mediated dUTP nick end labeling and caspase-3 staining. Proliferation was not significantly different in COX-1+/+, COX-1+/-, and COX-1-/- animals. When susceptibility to UV-induced tumor formation was studied, tumor number, average tumor size, and time of tumor onset in COX-1-/- animals were identical to WT controls. Thus, enhanced apoptosis did not alter UV-induced skin carcinogenesis, suggesting other effects are key to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug chemoprevention. These results contrast sharply with data obtained using the classic 7,12-dimethylbenz(a) anthracene/12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate cancer model in which a prominent protective effect of COX-1-/- is present. The lack of protection observed here confirms cancer mechanisms are distinct in UV- and tumor promotor-induced cancer models and indicates that chemoprevention strategies must specifically address cancer causes to be effective.