Beta-Carotene Therapy for Erythropoietic Protoporphyria and Other Photosensitivity Diseases

  • M. M. Mathews-Roth
Part of the Photobiology book series (PB)


Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation or visible light can have profound effects on the skin of a susceptible individual. The harmful effects of the sunburn spectrum (290–320 nm) are well known. In addition, there are several diseases associated with sensitivity to visible light. An example of one of these diseases is erythropoietic protoporphyria, in which sensitivity to visible light (380–560 nm) is a cardinal sympton. Until recently, no satisfactory way existed for preventing the sensitivity to visible light characteristic of prophyria other than to avoid light exposure. Sunscreens effective in preventing abnormal reactions to light of the sunburn spectrum are ineffective for the prevention of sensitivity to visible light. Observations that the carotenoid pigments of green plants and photosynthetic bacteria played an important role as protective agents against photosensitization by the organisms’ own chlorophyll led to the suggestion that these pigments might be of benefit in the treatment of photosensitive diseases characterized by sensitivity to visible light. In this chapter we will discuss the studies in bacteria, plants, and animals that led to the use of carotenoid pigments in the treatment of human photosensitivity, and briefly discuss the clinical pharmacology of the carotenoid pigments. The reader is referred to the books by Karrer and Jucker (1), Goodwin (2), and Isler (3) for a detailed discussion of the chemistry of the carotenoid pigments.


Anorexia Nervosa Carotenoid Pigment Porphyria Cutanea Tarda Horny Layer Protection Index 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1982

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. M. Mathews-Roth
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Channing Laboratory and Department of MedicineHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  2. 2.Brigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA

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