Which acne spots do we need to see?
A new study finds acne spots on the face and scalp are more common among older people, suggesting they are associated with increased risk of early death.
The study, published today in the journal JAMA Dermatology, found the number of spots increased by 9.5% for women and 11.5%, for men, for every 1% increase in age.
The study included 1,000 people, with a median age of 79, from the Mayo Clinic and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
It was the first to examine the link between age and skin health in people with acne.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at a large sample of older people who have had acne, looking at their facial acne, and skin-tinting test results.
“We found that older age was associated with a higher percentage of acne spots,” study author Kristin B. Daugherty, a dermatologist at the Mayo Clinical and Preventive Medicine Unit, told ABC News.
“This is consistent with studies showing that older people are at increased risk for developing acne.”
“When we looked at the overall percentage of facial acne lesions, we found that those with acne at any point in their lives had a higher prevalence of facial lesions,” she said.
Daugherty said her study also found that the risk of skin cancer for people in their 70s and 80s was higher than for those in their 20s.
More to the point, the study found that there was a significant increase in the number and type of acne lesions across age groups, even after controlling for other health factors, such as hypertension and smoking.
Bjorn Visser, a professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California, said the study was significant, especially given the prevalence of acne in the U.S. “It’s important to know the impact that the sun exposure is having on our skin, and this study shows that people in the older age group have higher prevalence and severity of acne,” Vissar told ABCNews.com.
“There is some evidence that older acne patients are at higher risk for sunburn, which is a known risk factor for skin cancer.”
Björn Vissman, professor of medical dermatology and dermatology, University of California, Los Angeles, said his study looked at acne on the skin of a large number of people in a large national population, and he did not expect the results to be similar to the Mayo study.
The Mayo study found skin lesions increased by more than 5%, but this is likely because it included people who had more severe acne and skin lesions, Vissers said.
While skin cancer and acne are not the only causes of skin damage, they are among the most common, and they are not seen with every form of acne.
Bjorns Vissinger, professor at the Department of Medicine, University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands, and senior author of the Mayo-affiliated study, said he was surprised to find that there were differences in the findings.
“In this study, we have to look at the number [of spots], not the number,” Visseer told ABCNEWS.com, adding that there are many factors that can affect the appearance of skin.
In the Mayo/Bjarnings study, skin lesions appeared more often in women than in men, and the number increased significantly with increasing age, Visseers said, adding he did notice some gender differences.
Vissers added that he believes the study highlights that the skin’s immune system is important for protecting against acne, as well as preventing it from growing in the first place.
“The immune system protects against the formation of scarring, so scarring will be less,” Vissel said.
“And the inflammatory process, the inflammation that occurs, is the primary way acne gets started.”
Dr. Visserman added that more research is needed to understand how age influences the development of acne, but he also emphasized that more studies are needed to establish whether the risk is more related to the number or type of spots or the age at which people developed acne.
“Our goal is to better understand what’s driving the increase in acne, so we can use that information to identify preventive measures that are most effective and effective in reducing acne,” he said.