Carcinogenic risk in patients treated with UVA-1 phototherapy: A 5-year retrospective study

Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2024 May;40(3):e12975. doi: 10.1111/phpp.12975.


Background: UVA-1 phototherapy was first used to treat atopic dermatitis and afterwards to several other skin diseases. The contribution of UVA-1 in human photocarcinogenesis, skin photoaging, immune suppression, and hyperpigmentation is now well established. The actual contribution of UVA-1 radiation to the development of malignant melanoma (MM) in humans cannot be excluded.

Purpose: The aim of the study is to evaluate the risk of developing skin cancers (non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSCs) and MM) in patients treated with UVA-1 phototherapy with a 5-year dermatological follow-up.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study with 31 patients with morphea and atopic dermatitis treated with medium dose UVA-1 phototherapy (34 J/cm2). All enrolled patients underwent an oncologic prevention visit annually with a 5-year follow-up with clinical evaluation of the entire skin surface.

Results: During the 5-year follow-up, we recorded a case of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) in the cervical region and one case of MM on the back (pT1a). In both cases, the patients were female and affected by morphea. The Glogau 3 group is prevalent (42%), which is consistent with moderate to severe aging; the data appear to be compatible with the age.

Conclusions: This study attests that medium-dose UVA-1 phototherapy does not increase the risk of developing skin tumors and that UVA-1 phototherapy is not a worsening factor of facial photoaging. The main limitation of the study is the small sample size, avoiding to obtain statistically significant values. It was not possible to analyze individually the actual daily sun exposure during the 5-year observation period and to correlate it in terms of time and tumor development. Further studies with large sample sizes will be needed to confirm our data. Our study reaffirms how the dermatological examination performed annually is essential in the follow-up of patients undergoing this type of therapy.

Keywords: UVA1; carcinogenesis; phototherapy; risk.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Basal Cell* / etiology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma* / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms, Radiation-Induced / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scleroderma, Localized / etiology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / epidemiology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects
  • Ultraviolet Therapy* / adverse effects