The history of phototherapy: Something new under the sun?


      Phototherapy has a very long, albeit mostly anecdotal history. Real interest in the use of ultraviolet irradiation in the treatment of various diseases started in the 19th century and reached a climax when Niels Finsen received the Nobel Prize in 1903 for his therapeutic results with lupus vulgaris. This marked the start of modern phototherapy. It was used in thermal stations for treatment of tuberculosis, in the treatment of leg ulcers in wartime, and in the treatment of skin diseases. This article reviews the history of a treatment modality that greatly changed modern dermatologic treatment, although it is as old as mankind. (J Am Acad Dermatol 2002;46:926-30.)
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment
      AAD Member Login
      AAD Members, full access to the journal is a member benefit. Use your society credentials to access all journal content and features
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'

      Purchase one-time access:

      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Fitzpatrick TB
        • Pathak MA.
        Historical aspects of methoxsalen and other furocoumarins.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1959; 31: 229-231
        • Ritter JW.
        Bemerkungen zu Herschel's neueren Untersuchungen über das Licht..
        in: Physisch-Chemische Abhandlungen, in chronologischen Folge. II Band. Reclam, Leipzig1806: 81-107
        • Barth J
        • Köhler U.
        Photodermatologie in Dresden-ein historischer Abriss. Festschrift anlässlich des 75.
        (Geburtstages von Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. h.c. H.-E. Kleine-Natrop (1917-1985). Dresden)1992
      1. Br Med J. 1966; 5484: 412-413
      2. Saleeby CW. Sunlight and health. 3rd ed. London: Nisbet & Co; 1923-1926.

        • Palm TA.
        The geographical distribution and aetiology of rickets.
        The Practitioner. Oct/Nov 1890;
        • Ziegelroth
        Die elektrische Belichtung bei Lupus.
        in: Blätter für klinische Hydrotherapie.1895;Juni: 138-140
        • Meffert H
        • Bahr T
        • Willibald Gebhardt
        Sein Leben und seine Verdienste um die Photomedizin.
        Dermatol Monatsschr. 1989; 175 (1861-1921): 699-705
        • Montgomery FH.
        The present status of phototherapy.
        J Cutan Dis. 1903; 21: 529-548
        • Leredde P.
        Photothérapie et photobiologie.
        Naud, Paris1903
        • Schäfer V.
        Artificial production of ultraviolet radiation, introduction and historical review.
        in: The biologic effects of ultraviolet radiation. Pergamon, Oxford:1969: 93-105
        • Rollier A.
        Oxford Medical Publications, Oxford1923
        • Bernhard O.
        Light treatment in surgery.
        Edward Arnold & Co, London:1926
        • Bernhard O.
        Über offene Wundbehandlung durch Insolation und Eintrocknung.
        Munch Med Wochenschr. 1904; : 1
        • Haeberlin
        Zur Behandlung granulierender Wunden.
        Munch Med Wochenschr. 1907; : 8
        • Dosquet W.
        Offene Wundbehandlung und Freiluftbehandlung.
        Georg Thieme, Leipzig1916
        • Backer
        Sonnen und Freiluftbehandlung schwer eiternder Wunden.
        Ebenda. 1914; 52
      3. Kriegstätigkeit des Badischen Frauenvereins 1914-1919. F.C. Müllersche Hofbuchdruckerei, Karlsruhe, Germany1919: 37-38
      4. Asbeck. Ueber Sonnenlichtbehandlung. MMW Munch Med Wochenschr 1917;2. Feldärztliche Beilage Nr 2:65.

        • Sugrue ME
        • Carolan J
        • Leen EJ
        • Feeley TM
        • Moore DJ
        • Shanik GD.
        The use of infrared laser therapy in the treatment of venous ulceration.
        Ann Vasc Surg. 1990; 4: 179-181
        • Cullum N
        • Nelson EA
        • Flemming K
        • Sheldon T.
        Systematic reviews of wound care management: (5) beds; (6) compression; (7) laser therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, electrotherapy and electromagnetic therapy.
        Health Technol Assess. 2001; 5: 1-221
        • Schindl A
        • Schindl M
        • Pernerstorfer-Schon H
        • Mossbacher U
        • Schindl L.
        Low intensity laser irradiation in the treatment of recalcitrant radiation ulcers in patients with breast cancer—long-term results of 3 cases.
        Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2000; 16: 34-37
        • Fahmy IR
        • Abu-Shady H.
        Ammi majus Linn: pharmacognostical study and isolation of a crystalline constituent, ammoidin.
        Q J Pharmacol. 1947; 20: 281-291
        • Fahmy IR
        • Abu-Shady H
        • Schönberg A
        • Sina A.
        A crystalline principle from Ammi majus L.
        Nature. 1947; 160: 468-469
        • Fahmy IR
        • Abu-Shady H.
        Ammi majus Linn: the isolation and properties of ammoidin, ammidin and majudin, and their effect in the treatment of leukoderma.
        Q J Pharmacol. 1948; 21: 499-503
        • Roelandts R.
        The history of photochemotherapy.
        Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 1991; 8: 184-189
        • Buck HW
        • Magnus IA
        • Porter AD.
        The action spectrum of 8-methoxypsoralen for erythema in human skin.
        Br J Dermatol. 1960; 72: 249-255
        • Pathak MA
        • Fellman JH.
        Activating and fluorescent wavelengths of furocoumarins: psoralens.
        Nature. 1960; 185: 382-383
        • Allyn B.
        Studies on phototoxicity in man and laboratory animals.
        in: Presented at the Twenty-First Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology Chicago1962 Dec
        • Oddoze L
        • Témime P
        • Marchand JP
        • Benne M.
        L'association “meladinine” per os et rayons U.V. dans le traitement du psoriasis.
        Bull Soc Fr Dermatol Syph. 1967; 74: 609-610
        • Fulton JE
        • Leyden J
        • Papa C.
        Treatment of vitiligo with topical methoxsalen and blacklite.
        Arch Dermatol. 1969; 100: 224-229
        • Mortazawi SMA.
        Meladinine und UVA bei Vitiligo, Psoriasis, Parapsoriasis und Akne vulgaris.
        Dermatol Monatsschr. 1972; 158: 908-909
        • Mortazawi SMA
        • Oberste-Lehn H.
        Lichtsensibilisatoren und ihre therapeutischen Fähigkeiten.
        Z Haut-Geschl Kr. 1973; 48: 1-9
        • Wiskemann A.
        Die neuere Entwicklung der Lichttherapie.
        Dermatol Wochenschr. 1963; 147: 377-383
        • Forck G.
        Ganzkörperbestrahlung mit UV-Licht. Aufbau einer neuartigen Anlage.
        Dermatol Wochenschr. 1964; 150: 290-294
        • Parrish JA
        • Fitzpatrick TB
        • Tanenbaum L
        • Pathak MA.
        Photochemotherapy of psoriasis with oral methoxsalen and longwave ultraviolet light.
        N Engl J Med. 1974; 291: 1207-1211
        • Bernhard JD.
        Commentary on oral methoxsalen photochemotherapy for the treatment of psoriasis: A cooperative clinical trial: from napkin notes to notabilia.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1989; 92: 154S-156S
        • Melski JW
        • Tanenbaum L
        • Parrish JA
        • Fitzpatrick TB
        • Bleich HL
        • participating investigators 28
        Oral methoxsalen photochemotherapy for the treatment of psoriasis: a cooperative clinical trial.
        J Invest Dermatol. 1977; 68: 328-335
        • Hönigsmann H
        • Jaschke E
        • Gschnait F
        • Brenner W
        • Fritsch P
        • Wolff K.
        5-Methoxypsoralen (Bergapten) in photochemotherapy of psoriasis.
        Br J Dermatol. 1979; 101: 369-378
        • Alderson HE.
        Heliotherapy in psoriasis.
        Arch Dermatol. 1923; 8: 79-80
        • Goeckerman WH.
        The treatment of psoriasis.
        Northwest Med. 1925; 24: 229-231
        • Wiskemann A.
        UVB-Phototherapie der Psoriasis mit einer fur die PUVA-Therapie entwickelten Stehbox.
        Z Hautkr. 1978; 53: 633-636
        • van Weelden H
        • De La Faille HB
        • Young E
        • van der Leun JC.
        A new development in UVB phototherapy of psoriasis.
        Br J Dermatol. 1988; 119: 11-19
        • Green C
        • Ferguson J
        • Lakshmipathi T
        • Johnson BE.
        311 nm UVB phototherapy—an effective treatment for psoriasis.
        Br J Dermatol. 1988; 119: 691-696
        • Edelson R
        • Berger C
        • Gasparro F
        • Jegasothy B
        • Heald P
        • Wintroub B
        • et al.
        Treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma by extracorporeal photochemotherapy. Preliminary results.
        N Engl J Med. 1987; 316: 297-303
        • Krutmann J
        • Schopf E.
        High-dose-UVA1 phototherapy: a novel and highly effective approach for the treatment of acute exacerbation of atopic dermatitis.
        Acta Derm Venereol Suppl (Stockh. 1992; 176: 120-122
        • Kennedy JC
        • Pottier RH.
        Endogenous protoporphyrin IX, a clinically useful photosensitizer for photodynamic therapy.
        J Photochem Photobiol B. 1992; 14: 275-292
        • Gschnait F.
        Orale Photochemotherapie.
        Springer Verlag, Wien1982
        • Morison WL.
        Phototherapy and photochemotherapy of skin disease.
        Praeger Publishers, USA1983
        • Grossweiner LI.
        The science of phototherapy.
        CRC Press, Boca Raton (FL)1994
        • Zanolli MD
        • Feldman SR
        • Clark AR
        • Fleischer AB.
        Phototherapy treatment protocols.
        Parthenon Publishing Group, Carnforth (UK)2000
        • Krutmann J
        • Hönigsmann H
        • Elmets CA
        • Bergstresser PR.
        Dermatological phototherapy and photodiagnostic methods.
        Springer Verlag, Berlin2001
        • Cremer RJ
        • Perryman PW
        • Richards DH.
        Influence of light on the hyperbilirubinemia of infants.
        Lancet. 1958; 1: 1094-1097
        • Lewy AJ
        • Khern HA
        • Rosenthal NE
        • Wehr TA.
        Bright artificial light treatment of a manic-depressive patient with a seasonal mood cycle.
        Am J Psychiatry. 1982; 139: 1496-1498
        • Rosenthal NE
        • Sack DA
        • Gillin JC.
        Seasonal affective disorders: a description of the syndrome and preliminary findings with light therapy.
        Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1984; 41: 72-80