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Open Access Research article

Impact of UVA exposure on psychological parameters and circulating serotonin and melatonin

Thilo Gambichler*, Armin Bader, Mirjana Vojvodic, Falk G Bechara, Kirsten Sauermann, Peter Altmeyer and Klaus Hoffmann

Author Affiliations

Department of Dermatology, Ruhr-University Bochum, Bochum, Germany

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BMC Dermatology 2002, 2:6  doi:10.1186/1471-5945-2-6

Published: 12 April 2002



People tend to feel better after exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This study was performed to investigate the impact of UVA exposure on psychological and neuroendocrine parameters.


Fifty-three volunteers were separated into 42 individuals who had UVA exposure and 11 individuals who had no UVA exposure. The UVA-exposed volunteers had irradiation sessions six times in a three-week period. All volunteers completed two questionnaires at baseline (T1) and at the end of the study (T3). For the determination of serotonin and melatonin serum levels of all volunteers blood samples were collected at baseline (T1), after the first UVA exposure (T2), and at the end of the study after the sixth exposure (T3).


UVA-exposed volunteers felt significantly more balanced, less nervous, more strengthened, and more satisfied with their appearance at T3. By contrast, the controls did not show significant changes of psychological parameters. In comparison to T1 and T3, serum serotonin was significantly higher and the serum melatonin was significantly lower for the volunteers exposed to UVA at T2. Both, for exposed and non-exposed volunteers serotonin and melatonin levels did not significantly differ at T1 and T3.


It remains obscure, whether the exposure to UVA or other components of the treatment were responsible for the psychological benefits observed. The changes of circulating neuroendocrine mediators found after UVA exposure at T2 may be due to an UVA-induced effect via a cutaneous pathway. Nevertheless, the positive psychological effects observed in our study cannot be attributed to circulating serotonin or melatonin.