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Epidermal thickness, skin pigmentation and constitutive photosensitivity

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The important factors for UV sensitivity in humans are considered to be the skin pigmentation and the epidermal thickness. In this study on 73 Caucasians (age 20–85 years), we investigated in UV unexposed buttock skin the relationship between the UV sensitivity and constitutive skin pigmentation and thickness of the stratum corneum and the cellular part of the epidermis, in 34 normal people and in 39 skin cancer patients (20 patients with cutaneous malignant melanoma and 19 patients with basal cell carcinoma of the skin). Skin pigmentation was measured by skin reflectance spectroscopy, and UV sensitivity by phototest with a solar simulator. Thicknesses of the stratum corneum and the cellular part of the epidermis were determined by light microscopic evaluation of skin biopsies from the phototest areas. We found that epidermal thickness was independent of skin type and was not correlated to constitutive skin pigmentation. Thickness of the stratum corneum was statistically not different in normal persons and in skin cancer patients (P=0.4l) and was independent of gender (P=0.61) and age (P=0.56), while thickness of the cellular epidermis decreased with age (P<0.01). Stratum corneum thickness was found to be of minor importance for the constitutive UV sensitivity (accounting for on average 11% of the total photoprotection), which was mainly determined by the constitutive skin pigmentation (goodness‐of‐fit for correlation r=0.83). A theoretical model for the relationship of UV dose to induction of clinical erythema grade and skin pigmentation and thickness of the stratum corneum was developed. Objective measurements of skin pigmentation in UV unexposed skin by skin reflectance spectroscopy in Caucasians, normal people and people with cutaneous malignant melanoma and basal cell carcinoma of the skin predicts the constitutive UV sensitivity with a high degree of precision.
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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Dermatology, Bispebjerg Hospital, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen 2: Department of Pathology, Sonderborg Sygehus, S√łnderborg 3: Department of Plastic Surgery, Rigshospitalet, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Publication date: 01 August 1997

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