Scientists at the University of Manchester dispelled the myth on Thursday that people with black skin are largely protected from sun damage.

The skin of white people caused by repeated exposure to the sun also occurs in black skin, though about 50 years later, according to new research.

It has long been known that prolonged exposure to the sun causes premature ageing in the skin of white people, but it has been thought black skinned people are largely protected from sun damage because of a high content of pigment.

The study of people in their early 20s, 60s and 70s is the first to analyse how skin structure and elasticity changes with age in black people.

Lead researcher, Dr Abigail Langton from The University of Manchester, said: “we know repeated exposure to the sun can age white skin, but very little research has been carried out on black people.

“This research shows that black skin is indeed affected by the sun, though it takes far longer for that effect to be felt,’’ she said.

The research was carried out in partnership with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

The team analysed two skin sites: the buttock, which is protected from sun damage and the forearm, which receives regular exposure to the sun.

They used special equipment to test the elasticity of skin and measured key proteins that help skin health, fibrillin and collagen.

Protected black buttock skin performed similarly in both young and old people; the older cohort showed only small differences in elasticity.

However, the sun-exposed forearm skin showed significant changes in older black volunteers; it was much less elastic and fibrillin and collagen were reduced.
Prof. Rachel Watson, from the University of Manchester, said: “our previous work has shown that there are differences in how the skin is organised in black and white skin; clinicians are often unaware of this difference.

“There is certainly a need to take this into account when considering treatment options for all patients.

“Most research is carried out in places where there are fewer people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds, which might explain the lack of data on black skin.’’
Watson said the study highlights the need for improved public health advice, regarding the consequences of prolonged sun-exposure and the importance of using sun protection for all skin types.

The study is published in the latest edition of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. (Xinhua/NAN)