-Dr. Kathy Johnson, PhD, CMC
Kathryn J Martires, a student of Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, Cleveland, conducted a survey to further study the effects of the sun on aging. 65 pairs of twins were interviewed at the Twin Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, 2002.
The survey collected information regarding the participant’s skin type, history of skin cancer – if any, weight, and their smoking and drinking habits. Each person was given a photodamage score card which graded their aging by characteristics like wrinkles, change in pigmentation et al.
Archives of Dermatology in their December issue featured a report based on this study. Stating more than 40% superficial age related changes are not caused by genes but other factors. Smoking, weight problems, not applying sunscreen, further augment signs of aging.
Physical and structural changes in the skin mostly occur due to prolonged or long term exposure to sun, which then causes photodamage. Unlike normal skin aging, photodamage causes coarse and wrinkled skin, extra spotting of pigment, loss or growth of pigments, and dilated blood vessels start to appear on the face. Sun exposure is also known to aid dermal cancerous growths. The survey conducted showed correlated photodamage scores among identical or monozygotic and fraternal or dizygotic twins. Higher levels of photodamage were recorded in individuals who had a history of cancer, heavy weight and smoking; people who consume alcohol, on the other hand, showed lower photodamage scores.
Taking advantage of the Twins Festival, researchers find studying various twin pairs helps in learning more about genetic susceptibility.