Over half of the middle-aged have a skin disease requiring treatment

Skin diseases among middle-aged people are more common than previously thought. The doctoral thesis research of Suvi-Päivikki Sinikumpu, Licentiate of Medicine, revealed that 60% of the subjects had a skin disease requiring treatment.

On a societal level, the significance of skin diseases is significant, since they are usually long-term and comprehensively affect the person's quality of life, social life and ability to work. Many systemic diseases show symptoms on the skin even before manifesting, and skin symptoms may be an early indication of an underlying disease.

Most commonly, the skin diseases discovered in the research were skin infections, sebaceous gland diseases and eczemas. Isolated cases of skin cancer were also discovered. The need for care was greater in men and in lower social classes.

The study looked more closely into the number of pigmented nevi on the skin, as an increased number of nevi is one of the most significant risk factor of the increasingly common skin melanoma. In the study, 12% of subjects had an increased number of pigmented nevi, i.e. over 50 nevi. The risk for having an increased number of nevi is higher for men, highly educated people and those whose skin is the type to burn easily and not to tan easily. Education on the risk factors of melanoma should be especially targeted to these risk groups.

Connection between diabetes and broken skin between the toes

It is estimated that there are about 150,000 people in Finland who have type 2 diabetes without being aware of it. New methods are required to find this disconcertingly large group, in order to start treatment and to prevent the complications associated with diabetes.

The study found that abnormal changes between the toes, such as broken, peeling or red skin, are connected to diabetes that has not been diagnosed before. “Detecting broken skin between the toes may be an easy, cheap and fast aid to detecting new diabetics”, says Sinikumpu.

The connection between skin diseases and low-grade inflammation has not been well-known so far. The study found that many skin diseases, such as atopic dermatitis and rosacea, are connected to a mild inflammatory state of the body. The finding was interesting since low-grade inflammation has been suggested as one connecting factor between some skin diseases and cardiovascular diseases.

The prevalence of skin diseases was studied in the doctoral thesis research as a part of the unique Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 project. The research covered all the children in the Oulu Province and Lapland Province with the expected date of delivery in 1966 (12,058). As this group reached middle age, everyone living in Oulu and nearby municipalities were called to an extensive 46-year-olds’ check-up. In addition to other several clinical examinations, the subjects (1,932 people) had a dermatologist check their entire skin, and the results presented above are based on said check-up.

Licentiate of Medicine Suvi-Päivikki Sinikumpu will defend her doctoral dissertation at the University of Oulu on Friday 9 February 2018.

Link to the doctoral dissertation announcement.

Last updated: 5.2.2018