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J Pediatr. 1997 Jan;130(1):30-9.

Predictors of severity of acne vulgaris in young adolescent girls: results of a five-year longitudinal study.

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Department of Dermatology, Lipid Research Clinic, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Children's Hospital Medical Center, Ohio, USA.



The objectives of this study were to determine which factors in early pubertal girls might be predictive of later, severe facial acne.


The study was a 5-year longitudinal cohort study, with yearly visits from 1987 through 1991, in a volunteer sample of 439 black and 432 white fourth- and fifth-grade girls with consent from their legal guardians. The subjects were recruited from public and parochial schools in Cincinnati, Ohio. The degree of facial acne was classified annually as mild, moderate, or severe. Blood samples were obtained at the first, third, and fifth years of the study. Using the acne status during the fifth year of the study as the outcome variable, we determined the contributions from the prior acne status and the serum levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), testosterone, free testosterone (FT), estradiol (E2), progesterone, and testosterone-estrogen binding globulin (TEBG) and compared the results at various ages and at times before and after menarche.


No racial differences in acne or hormone levels were found. There was a progressive increase in the number of acne lesions with age and maturation. The girls exhibited many more comedonal than inflammatory acne lesions, regardless of age. The girls in whom severe acne developed by the fifth year of the study had significantly more comedones and inflammatory lesions than girls with mild or moderate acne, as early as age 10 years, approximately 2 h years before menarche, a time when their degree of acne was mild. Girls with mild comedonal acne had significantly later onset of menarche (12.5 compared with 12.2 years) than girls with severe comedonal acne. Girls in whom severe comedonal acne developed had significantly higher levels of serum DHEAS and, in a longitudinal analysis, somewhat higher levels of testosterone and FT in comparison with girls who had mild or moderate comedonal acne. Serum E2, testosterone/E2, progesterone, and TEBG values were no different in girls with severe compared with mild or moderate comedonal acne.


The early development of comedonal acne may be one of the best predictors of later, more severe disease. The adrenal hormone DHEAS appears to play an important role in the initiation of acne. DHEAS, testosterone, and FT are associated with the perpetuation of severe comedonal acne. Early recognition of young girls at risk of having severe comedonal acne may enable the clinician to intervene and thus prevent unwanted sequelae.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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