Then... and now: Celebrating our 30th birthday, 1975-2005

Then... and now

The Harvard Health Letter celebrates its 30th birthday in November 2005. For the next few months, we'll be using this space to look back at the changes in medicine over the past three decades as reflected in our pages.

In our first issue we were upbeat about PUVA light therapy for psoriasis, a recurring skin disease. PUVA stands for psoralen, a light-sensitizing medication, and UVA light. We envisioned it replacing "messy ointments followed by plastic dressings."

The optimism wasn't completely misguided. PUVA is very effective. But follow-up studies showed that repeat treatments also increased the risk for skin cancer, including possibly melanoma. Phototherapy, including variations on PUVA, is still used, but carefully and with tempered enthusiasm.

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