Join me on this journey as I travel throughout time to explore humans in regard to health, food, and training. Sometimes good, mostly bad, but always entertaining.
Next up on our journey in the WABAC machine we travel to the days (as early as 1933 to be exact) when people prescribed sun ray treatment to help fix ailments. This is something that should be brought back into popularity as they had it right with this one!
“The treatment of some diseases by exposure of the skin to the action of light, natural or artificial, has in a marvelously short space of time leaped from the obscure position of a somewhat contemptuously neglected specific to the status of one of the most valued and even invaluable weapons in the medical armoury.” The Orientation of Buildings (London: Royal Institute of British Architects (1933)
Exposure to sunlight has been prescribed for medicinal and therapeutic purposes since ancient times, across Western and Eastern cultures.
For instance, in many European cities following the Industrial Revolution, air pollution was so thick that natural sunlight was hard to come by.
Niels Finsen, a Faroese-Danish physician who had grown up in the dim light of the North Atlantic, was fascinated by the link between sun exposure and health. He noticed that ultraviolet light could apparently kill bacteria. In the 1890s he designed the Finsen Light, a powerful electric lamp which proved effective in treating lupus vulgaris, a skin disease caused by tuberculosis bacteria.
In 1903, Finsen was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine and physiology for his work on phototherapy.
For much of the first half of the twentieth century, phototherapy or “sun ray” therapy was prescribed for children for a wide range of maladies, from chest infections to anemia. At the same time, concerns mounted over the link between exposure to ultraviolet light and skin cancer.
By the 1960s, antibiotics and alternative treatments rendered sun ray therapy obsolete for most purposes. Targeted ultraviolet light is still used today for some skin disorders, and other types of non-ultraviolet light treatments are used to treat mood and sleep disorders.
Recently, some of the people who were subjected to weekly sun ray treatments as children have reported diagnoses of basal cell carcinoma. Though a direct causal link between sun ray treatment as a child and cancer as an adult is impossible to establish, the American Cancer Society lists exposure to ultraviolet light as the primary risk factor for skin cancers.
“A nurse would perch us all on small wooden chairs facing the lamp. The lamp was turned on, and we would sit there for what seemed like a long time.” Alison Lawlor
“I remember the lovely warm feeling of the purple light on my skin.” Alison Lawlor
“As I pulled my clothes back on afterwards, my skin felt warm, tingly and pink and there were marks around my eyes where the goggles had been.” Alison Lawlor