The Great British Weather might be one of the nation's favourite topics of conversation - in particular, bemoaning the lack of sunshine during the summer months. But, according to a research study led by the University of Dundee, even the sunlight we do get is enough to act as an effective medical treatment.
Daylight Photodynamic Treatment is a technique which is increasingly being used in countries across Europe and in Australia. It uses visible light from the sun as the source of treatment. During treatment, patients wear sunscreen to protect themselves from harmful ultraviolet rays. A light sensitive cream, which is absorbed by diseased tissue, is applied and the skin is then exposed to daylight for at least two hours. This combination both protects the healthy skin and treats the diseased skin.
Lead researcher Dr Paul O’Mahoney from the School of Medicine said, “Daylight PDT is increasingly undertaken elsewhere, but its use has lagged behind in the UK.
“This is understandable as there are concerns about the use of a treatment in the UK that relies heavily on the weather! Confidence in the use of effective light delivery is required.”
Dr O’Mahoney and colleagues have now found that even in the most northerly parts of the UK, and far outwith the summer months, daylight PDT is a viable option.
Their work has arisen from a study focused on Actinic keratoses (AK), pre-cancerous lesions which appear as dry, scaly patches of skin and are caused by damage from chronic sun exposure. In the UK this is often treated through Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), where light is shone onto the affected area of skin after a light-activated cream has been applied to kill the abnormal cells. This takes place in a clinic but daylight PDT presents a less painful and more convenient treatment for patients.
This collaborative study between the University of Dundee, NHS Tayside, Public Health England and Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, has found that daylight PDT can be performed throughout the UK. It can also be performed at times of the year in the UK not previously considered. The study looked at locations as far apart as Camborne in Cornwall to Lerwick in the Shetlands.
Researchers did find that while the sunlight may be strong enough to apply the treatment, patients might find it too cold to sit outside for the period required, so conservatory-based treatment may be a solution during the colder months.
Results contained in a research paper published by the British Journal of Dermatology detail how the investigators studied thousands of daylight measurements throughout the country to work out which locations would be suitable for treatment.
Dr O’Mahoney said, “We anticipate that this model will provide guidance for those involved in delivering dPDT clinical services and reassurance for both practitioners and patients as to when they can and cannot use dPDT in the UK.”
You can find out more about this research by reading the article here.