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Contact Dermatitis. 2011 Feb;64(2):80-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0536.2010.01831.x.

Healthy worker effect in hairdressing apprentices.

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Research Centre for Hairdressers and Beauticians, Department of Dermato-Allergology, Copenhagen University Hospital Gentofte, Dk-2900 Hellerup, Denmark.



Hairdressers and hairdressing apprentices have a high incidence of occupational hand eczema, owing to excessive wet work and exposure to chemical substances. Hairdressing apprentices, in particular, seem to be at high risk of developing hand eczema. Previous hand eczema and atopic dermatitis are known risk factors for the development of hand eczema in wet work occupations.


To estimate the prevalence of hand eczema, eczema on wrists or forearms and atopic dermatitis in a cohort of hairdressing apprentices at the start of their education, and subsequently evaluate any potential healthy worker effect.


During the first 2 weeks of training, 382 hairdressing apprentices were enrolled in this study. All apprentices completed a self-administered questionnaire, including previously validated questions regarding, for example, previous and present hand eczema, eczema on the wrists or forearms, and atopic dermatitis. For comparison, the questionnaire was sent to a control group matched for age, gender and city code from the general population (n = 1870).


Response rates were 99.7% for the hairdressing apprentices (mean age 17.5 years, range 15-39 years, 96.3% females) and 68.3% for the control group (mean age 17.4 years, range 15-39 years, 96.8% females). Previous or present hand eczema were reported by 8.0% of hairdressing apprentices and by 12.5% of the matched control group (p = 0.009), and eczema on the wrists or forearms was reported by 5.3% of the apprentices and by 11.9% of the controls (p < 0.001). We classified 21.4% of the hairdressing apprentices as having atopic dermatitis versus 29.8% of the matched control group (p = 0.001).


These results indicate a healthy worker effect, as there was a lower reported incidence of hand eczema and eczema on wrists or forearms, and there were fewer cases classified as having atopic dermatitis, among hairdressing apprentices than in a matched control group from the general population.

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