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December 1985

Misuse of Hair Analysis as a Diagnostic Tool

Author Affiliations

University of Florida College of Medicine Department of Medicine Division of Dermatology Box J-277 Gainesville, FL 32610

Arch Dermatol. 1985;121(12):1504-1505. doi:10.1001/archderm.1985.01660120030013

Many of us have been asked for our advice on or interpretation of a laboratory printout of a hair sample analysis. Despite this interest of our patients (or fellow physicians) in determining the implications for their (or their patients') hair or general health, it is well recognized by dermatologists and many nutritionists that mineral and trace element analysis of hair samples is not a clinically useful tool to assess nutritional status. The reasons for this are variability in environmental effects (hair care, occupational exposure, geographic location), differing growth rates (health, drug effect, age, gender), and lack of standardization in analysis techniques.1-4

The dangers of the current commercial availability of multimineral hair analysis are underscored in a recent article by Barrett5 in JAMA. In this study, information and instructions for submitting hair samples were obtained from 13 commercial laboratories offering hair analysis. The services offered by various laboratories included

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