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December 29, 1969

Early Destructive Effect of Sunlight on Human Skin

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia.

JAMA. 1969;210(13):2377-2380. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160390039008

The facial skin of white persons has been assessed throughout the human life span for the severity of elasticfiber changes as an indicator of sunlight damage. Elastic hyperplasia began as early as the first decade and was clearly evident in a majority of young adults before the age of 30. Beyond the fourth decade most persons had serious elastic-tissue abnormalities culminating in massive degeneration. The elastotic changes were quite advanced before the extensiveness of the damage became visible clinically. The unexposed skin of the buttock exhibited only a slight increase in elastic fibers in old age. The degree of elastic-tissue damage in different regions of the face was in relation to the amount of sunlight these received, greatest on the ear rim and cheek, least under the chin and eyebrows. Sunlight, not innate aging, is mainly responsible for the worst manifestation of senile skin.