Chinese dark-skinned people become more complex in the future as their skin becomes more prone to sunburn, according to research conducted by a team at Beijing Normal University.
The study, which was published in the Chinese journal, Paediatric Dermatology, showed that those with darker skin have a significantly higher incidence of sunburn than those with lighter skin.
The findings suggest that the Chinese are at greater risk of sun damage as they age, with the increase in skin darkening that may lead to more skin cancer and a poorer quality of life.
According to Dr Jianxin Wu, one of the study’s authors, the increase of skin darkness could lead to skin cancers that are more difficult to treat.
Dr Wu added: “It could also contribute to the risk of skin cancers in middle age, and lead to poorer quality and longer life.”
The skin darkens with age, so if you are old, you may be more prone than younger people to developing sunburn.
“If you are young, and have a healthy skin, you can still get sunburn but there may be less damage.”
The study was carried out to investigate whether there was a relationship between dark skin and skin cancer, which has been linked to the aging process.
Skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer in people aged between 40 and 80, according the National Cancer Institute.
“The results suggest that skin darkenings in people with darker-skinned skin may be a marker of sun exposure, which may lead more sunburn in people of Asian descent, which are more susceptible to sun exposure,” Dr Wu said.
As a result, more research is needed to understand the relationship between skin color and sunburn risk.
“We are very excited to find that dark-coloured skin in older people may be associated with a lower incidence of skin disease, which could also be a risk factor for skin cancer,” Dr Hu said.
“It could be possible that the skin darker in this group may be due to their greater sensitivity to the sun, and may also have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.”
The study also looked at whether there were differences in the amount of melanin in skin and the amount in the skin cells of people with dark skin.
The researchers found that the amount melanin varies with the type of skin and is found in the areas of the skin closest to the skin’s surface, called the erythema nodosum.
Melanin is the primary pigment in skin cells and is an essential ingredient in all cells of the body.
This is why it is believed to protect the skin from damage and keep it looking healthy.
“In a few studies, we have shown that skin-darkening skin is associated with lower levels of melanocortin-4 in the erythroid (skin cells that make up most of the outer layer of skin) in older persons,” Dr Jian said.
The results also suggested that the melanin level in skin in people at higher risk for skin cancers is higher.
“Our findings suggest the skin darkened in these individuals is associated to a lower level of melanocytes in the cells of their skin,” Dr Huang said.
A high level of the enzyme melanin reductase (MRR), which converts melanin into its own form, has been shown to reduce the risk for melanoma in people.
However, this research did not look at the role of other factors that might contribute to skin darkeners, such as the age of the person.
“Other studies have shown dark skin in Chinese people to be associated to lower levels and higher levels of UVB radiation, which is associated in Chinese with increased melanocyte counts and skin dark spots,” Dr Zhang said.
This research has been supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences National Center for Scientific Research.