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Hiva Fassihi

, and Jane McGregor

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date: 28 February 2021

Normal human skin is photosensitive in that it reddens following acute sunlight exposure and tans and thickens following chronic sunlight exposure. Skin cancer, particularly non-melanoma skin cancer, is also a consequence of high cumulative sun exposure in genetically predisposed normal individuals (predominantly those with fair skin).

Outside the range of normal photosensitivity, there are several conditions in which patients exhibit diverse abnormal cutaneous reactions to sunlight. These are broadly described together as the photosensitivity disorders, but in fact they comprise a very heterogeneous group of skin conditions. Abnormal cutaneous photosensitive responses range from easy sunburn (as in drug phototoxicity and the DNA repair photodermatoses) and pain (erythropoietic protoporphyria), through to complex inflammatory responses such as urticaria, eczema, or epidermal necrosis induced by specific wavelengths of sunlight, the so-called idiopathic photodermatoses.

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