Adult Acne on Rise as Women Age and Hormones Kick In

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iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) — As the American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD) convenes for its annual meeting in San Diego on Friday, doctors say adult-onset acne is on the rise in women over the age of 25, as well as those well into their 40s and 50s.

One self-reported survey from the University of Alabama, published in 2008, found that acne affects more than 50 percent of women between the ages of 20-29 and more than 25 percent between the ages of 40-49.

Another clinical survey from Massachusetts General Hospital, published in 2011, revealed that 45 percent of women between the ages of 20-29 and 12 percent of women between the ages of ages 41-50 had acne.

“That’s still significant,” said Dr. Bethanee Jean Schlosser, who will deliver a paper on the role of hormones in adult-onset acne Friday at the AAD meeting.

Women are also disproportionately affected, compared with men, according to Schlosser, who is the assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern University’s Feinstein School of Medicine.

The reasons for the numbers of adult cases are unclear and probably multi-factoral, according to Schlosser.  But one significant factor is the role hormones play, she said.  As women age, their levels of androgens [the male hormone that is present in both men and women] rise.

These hormones can influence excess sebum or oil gland production as well as increase the rate at which skin cells shed, which can clog hair follicles.

Women with adult acne should be tested for androgen levels, according to Schlosser, particularly if they have excess body hair, deepening voice or irregular or infrequent menstrual periods.

Hormone treatments such as oral contraceptives, which decrease androgen production, as well as the anti-androgen medication spironolactone can be helpful, but patients must be carefully monitored for underlying health problems.

“It’s important for patients to understand that there are no quick fixes, and none of the therapies used to treat acne work overnight,” said Schlosser.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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