The Inside Edge

Trends in work-related skin and respiratory diseases from 1996 to 2005 have been investigated by researchers at the University of Manchester. Monthly reports of new cases considered to be work-related were provided by skin disease specialists, respiratory disease specialists and occupational physicians. In terms of skin disease, there was little evidence of change in the incidence of skin neoplasia or urticaria, but incidence of contact dermatitis fell. However, the researchers say any apparent downward trends should be interpreted cautiously, owing to possible reporting fatigue and other factors.
McNamee R, Carder M, Chen Y, Agius R. Occup Environ Med 2008; 65: 808-14

The interaction of UV light with skin cells normally leads to a reduction in immune responsiveness. However, in polymorphic light eruption (PLE), the immune system fails to downregulate. Thus, researchers at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin postulated that PLE might have a protective effect against skin cancer. They studied two groups, 214 patients with skin cancer and 210 matched controls, and 100 patients with PLE and 155 matched controls. Prevalence of PLE in people with skin cancer was 7.5 per cent compared with 21.4 per cent for controls, while prevalence of skin cancer in patients with PLE was 4 per cent compared with 7.1 per cent for controls. The researchers concluded that the immunological basis of PLE may indeed confer protection against skin cancer.
Lembo S, Fallon J, O'Kelly P, Murphy GM. Br J Dermatol 2008; 159: 1342-7

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) may prove a useful treatment for granuloma annulare, the results of a small study suggest. PDT was performed in seven consecutive patients with histologically confirmed granuloma annulare. Patients underwent two to three PDT sessions, with an interval of two to four weeks between each. Treatment was stopped when complete remission was achieved or when lesions remained unchanged after two consecutive sessions. Two patients achieved complete clearance of their granuloma annulare and two experienced marked improvement in the lesions, while no clinical response could be observed in three patients. The researchers concluded that these promising results should be evaluated in larger controlled studies.
Weisenseel P, Kuznetsov AV, Molin S et al. Dermatology 2008; 217: 329-32

It has been hypothesised that polymorphisms in the vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene affect the risk of developing melanoma. Researchers in Italy carried out a meta-analysis of six studies, involving a total of 2,152 cases of melanoma and 2,410 controls, that had looked at the association between five VDR polymorphisms (TaqI, FokI, BsmI, EcoRV, Cdx2) and the risk of melanoma. They concluded that the available data only support a significant association between the BsmI VDR polymorphism and melanoma risk, with a population-attributable risk of 9.2 per cent. The authors say their findings indirectly support the idea that sun exposure may have an anti-melanoma effect, through activation of the vitamin D system.
Mocellin S, Nitti D. Cancer 2008; 113: 2398-407

Women have a greater diversity of bacteria on their palms than men, according to a US study. Furthermore, only 13 per cent of microbial species are shared between individuals. Researchers examined the palmar surfaces of dominant and non-dominant hands of 51 healthy young adult volunteers and found that a typical hand surface harboured more than 150 different species of bacteria, with women having a greater diversity of species than men. This could be due to differences in skin pH, sweat or oil gland production, the researchers suggest. More than 4,700 different species of bacteria were identified in total, but only five were common to all of the participants.
Fierer N, Hamady M, Lauber CL, Knight R. PNAS 2008; 105: 17994-9

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