Protection against visible light by dihydroxyacetone in erythropoietic protoporphyria


BACKGROUND: Patients with erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP) are hypersensitive to long wave ultraviolet (UVA) radiation and visible light and they experience severe skin pain by light exposure. The patients have very limited treatment options. Sunless skin tanning with dihydroxyacetone (DHA) is now being investigated as a possible treatment modality of skin photosensitivity in EPP.

METHODS: We simulated the theoretical light protection factor provided by DHA application. In addition, we present 19 cases with EPP who were treated at our department with DHA weekly during spring and summer from 2018 to 2021 inclusive.

RESULTS: The protection factor against UVA and visible light was estimated to approximately two. Out of the 19 patients with EPP who were treated with DHA in 2018, 11 patients experienced a sustained good effect and continued to use the treatment on a weekly basis in the spring and summer of 2019, 2020, and 2021.

CONCLUSION AND PERSPECTIVES: Both the theoretical estimates and the uncontrolled study suggest that sunless tanning with DHA reduces photosensitivity in patients with EPP. Our hypothesis is that skin treated with DHA can tolerate twice the daylight dose compared to untreated skin before onset of skin symptoms. To validate this conclusion, we plan a randomized clinical trial to determine the effect of DHA application to reduce photosensitivity in patients with EPP under controlled clinical conditions. The study protocol for this trial is presented in the paper.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103302
JournalPhotodiagnosis and Photodynamic Therapy
Pages (from-to)103302
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Humans
  • Protoporphyria, Erythropoietic/drug therapy
  • Dihydroxyacetone/therapeutic use
  • Photochemotherapy/methods
  • Photosensitizing Agents/therapeutic use
  • Light
  • Photosensitivity Disorders/drug therapy


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