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May 20, 1974

β-Carotene as an Oral Photoprotective Agent in Erythropoietic Protoporphyria

Author Affiliations

From the Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical Unit and the Department of Medical Microbiology, Boston City Hospital (Drs. Mathews-Roth and Kass); the departments of microbiology and molecular genetics (Dr. Mathews-Roth), dermatology (Drs. Pathak and Fitzpatrick), and medicine (Dr. Kass), Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass; the Photobiology Unit, Dermatology Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston (Drs. Pathak and Fitzpatrick); and the Department of Dermatology, New York University Medical School, New York (Dr. Harber). Dr. Harber is now at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York.

JAMA. 1974;228(8):1004-1008. doi:10.1001/jama.1974.03230330034017

Fifty-three patients having erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP), with elevated levels of prophyrins in blood and feces and with photosensitivity after exposure to sunlight or artificial light, were treated with β-carotene given orally in dosages ranging from 15 to 180 mg/day. After treatment, 46 patients increased by fourfold or more the time they could tolerate exposure to sunlight without discomfort, and three have doubled their exposure time. Three patients were doubtful that any improvement had occurred and one had no improvement.

No untoward side effects were noted in toxicity studies of the patients. There was no evidence of hypervitaminosis A or of leukopenia. Thus, the oral administration of high doses of β-carotene is a safe and effective method of ameliorating in most patients the photosensitivity that occurs in EPP.

(JAMA 228:1004-1008, 1974)