Fourteen patients suffering from acute, exacerbated atopic eczema were screened for changes in collagen I and collagen III metabolism in serum (n = 11), urine (n = 11) and skin biopsies (n = 9) before and after medium-dose ultraviolet (UV) A1 phototherapy (15 exposures of 50 J/cm2 over a 3-week period, total dose 750 J/cm2). Mature collagen I and, to a lesser extent, mature collagen III were found to be decreased after the therapy in skin samples from the irradiated patients. As markers of collagen I degradation, the cross-links pyridoline and deoxypyridoline were analysed in urine using high-performance liquid chromatography. Both cross-links were found to be mildly increased after UVA1 phototherapy, without reaching statistical significance. As markers of de novo collagen synthesis we screened for the procollagen I-carboxyterminal peptide (PICP) and procollagen III-aminoterminal peptide (PIIINP) levels in serum and skin. The ratio of PICP to PIIINP in serum dropped significantly after the UVA1 phototherapy, suggesting a different impact of UVA1 on the two collagens. These findings were paralleled by a diminished ratio of PICP to PIIINP in tissue samples. Staining for matrix metalloproteinase 1 (MMP-1) and its specific counterpart, tissue inhibitor of MMP-1 (TIMP-1), showed slight increases for both proteins by therapeutic UVA1; this was also seen in serum for TIMP-1 but not MMP-1. In our study, high-energy UVA1 doses induced changes of the skin collagens in patients with atopic eczema which are measurable by their metabolites in serum and urine.