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Actas Dermosifiliogr. 2010 Jan-Feb;101(1):59-75.

[Epidemiology of contact dermatitis: prevalence of sensitization to different allergens and associated factors].

[Article in Spanish]

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Servicio de Dermatología, Complejo Asistencial de Zamora, Zamora, España.

Erratum in

  • Actas Dermosifiliogr. 2010 Mar;101(2):196.



In clinical practice, contact dermatitis is a relatively common skin complaint, whose prevalence has increased in recent years. Study by patch testing is essential for diagnosis of contact sensitization.


To study the prevalence of sensitization to different allergens in a standard battery and observe the influence of different epidemiological and clinical variables on contact sensitization. A large number of allergens were included in our battery in order to detect new sensitizations whose prevalence might justify further study.


This was a retrospective, observational, epidemiological study of 1092 patients, conducted in our skin allergy unit between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2005. All patients were studied with a battery of 51 allergens. We assessed the following variables: sex, age, type of referral, occupation, site and course of skin lesions, personal and family history of atopy, positive patch tests, clinical significance, diagnosis, source of sensitization, and occupational relationship.


At least 1 positive result was found in 55% of the patients, and 55.7% presented atopic dermatitis in one of its clinical variants: allergic contact dermatitis (28.2%), irritant contact dermatitis (20.1%), photoallergic contact dermatitis (2.2%), and phototoxic contact dermatitis (1.2%). The most prevalent allergens were nickel sulfate (29.3%), palladium chloride (11.7%), cobalt chloride (10.8%), potassium dichromate (7.5%), fragrance blends (6.3%), and p-phenylenediamine (6.1%). A positive occupational relationship was found in 41.1%, and 21.3% of the patients studied were diagnosed with occupational contact dermatitis. Metal workers, construction workers, and professional hairdressers were the most strongly represented groups. The most common source of sensitization was contact with metallic objects, followed by drugs, cosmetics, and rubber items. Female sex was the only independent variable that had a significant influence on the risk of contact sensitization in general.


Women became sensitized at a younger age than men, and the frequency of positive results in the patch tests increased with age, reaching a maximum at between 60 and 69 years of age, when the greatest rate of sensitization occurred. Comparison of our results with other Spanish data showed a progressive and constant increase in sensitization to nickel sulfate, fragrance blends, balsam of Peru, and rosin, and a decrease in sensitization to potassium dichromate. The inclusion of new allergens such as palladium chloride, diallyl disulfide, and p-toluene sulfonamide formaldehyde improved the sensitivity of the standard battery in the detection of contact sensitization. We therefore recommend further studies of these allergens.

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