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August 9, 1995

New Light on Skin Cancer Mechanisms

JAMA. 1995;274(6):445-446. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530060017006

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AT THE TIME of year when as many Americans as possible are seeking as much exposure to the sun as possible, a group of dermatologists offers a medical slant on basking in its rays.

Because light is essential to human life, it's no surprise that it plays a substantial role in health and disease. More than 25 diseases are caused or aggravated by sunlight—but light can also be an important therapeutic modality. Phototherapy for managing jaundice in premature newborns, light-based treatments for psoriasis, and light used to alleviate the gloom of seasonal affective disorder (JAMA. 1993;270:2717-2720) are three examples.

"Such approaches have revolutionized the treatment of some diseases," said Richard D. Granstein, MD, associate professor of dermatology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass, at a workshop on photobiology held in June during the annual meeting of the American Society for Photobiology in Washington, DC.

The deleterious effects of sunlight include cataracts,

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