Ge2Sb2Te5 is under intense investigation for phase-change memory devices, including rewriteable DVDs where optical illumination is used to switch between the glassy and crystalline states. We investigate the influence of optical irradiation on amorphous phase. Many chalcogenides display photo-oxidation, photodarkening or photo-bleaching, but little has been reported on the Ge-Sb-Te system. Using spectroscopic ellipsometry (SE) and secondary ion mass spectrometry, we determine that the samples have a strong tendency to photo-oxidize; if this is not accounted for, then the analysis of SE data appears to show photodarkening. Other authors recently reported photodarkening in nonstoichiometric GexSb20-xTe80 [Pamukchieva et al., Proc. SPIE 5581, 608 (2004); Pamukchieva et al., J. Optoelectron. Adv. Mater 7, 1277 (2005)], but our analysis suggests that the changes were also the result of photo-oxidation. The oxide has lower value of (n, k) than Ge2Sb2Te5, and can be etched by hydrofluoric acid or water. The photo-oxidation is presumably the result of free carrier generation in the Ge2Sb2Te5. Our observation of negligible photodarkening is consistent with previous works that found less photodarkening in tellurides compared with selenides or sulfides, and that an increase in the mean coordination number, here by Ge addition, further reduces the photodarkening effect.