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J Invest Dermatol. 2005 Dec;125(6):1119-29.

Genetic and environmental influences on skin pattern deterioration.

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Genetic Epidemiology Unit, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Brisbane, Qld, Australia.

Erratum in

  • J Invest Dermatol. 2006 Jun;126(6):1426-7.


Sun exposure has been known to cause histological changes in the dermal layer of the skin. Using deterioration in the fine reticular patterning of the epidermal stratum corneum (skin pattern, as measured on the Beagley-Gibson scale) as a proxy measure of histological changes in the dermal layer, previous studies have typically assumed that degradation of skin pattern is largely caused by sun exposure. A twin study comprising 332 monozygotic twin pairs and 488 dizygotic twin pairs at ages 12, 14, and 16 was used to investigate the etiology of variation in skin pattern, particularly in relation to measured sun exposure and skin color. Our results indicate that although self-reported sun exposure is a significant contributor to variation in skin pattern, its effect is small, explaining only 3.4% of variation in skin pattern at age 14. Additive genetic effects explain 86% of variation in skin pattern at age 12 but these effects reduce with age so that 75% of variation is due to additive genetic effects at age 14 and 72% at age 16. This trend of diminishing genetic influences continues into adulthood, with 62% of variation due to non-additive genetic factors in a smaller adult sample (aged 32-86). Skin color explains 10.4% of variation in skin pattern at age 12, which is due to additive genetic influences common to both. Melanin content appears to provide a protective effect against skin pattern deterioration, perhaps because of the structural differences in melanosomes between different skin types or the free radical scavenging properties of melanin.

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