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The prevalence of seborrhoeic keratoses in an Australian population: does exposure to sunlight play a part in their frequency?

Although seborrhoeic keratoses (SKs) appear to be very common, there are very few studies reporting details of age-specific prevalence, distribution or possible cause. We report details on the frequency, nature and distribution of SKs in 100 Australian adults in the age groups 15-25, 26-50, 51-75 and those aged more than 75 years. There was an increase in prevalence of SKs from 12% of 15-25 year olds to 100% of those aged more than 50 years. The median number of lesions in those with them also increased with age from six per person in 15-25 year olds to 69 per person in those aged more than 75 years. There was no difference in prevalence or numbers of lesions/person between males and females. SKs on exposed areas were more often flat and more than 3 mm in diameter than those on the non-exposed areas. There was a higher prevalence of SKs on the exposed areas than non-exposed areas when taking into account the surface area. The data in this study demonstrate an increased frequency of SKs compared with those reported from the United Kingdom recently and from Australasia in the past, a phenomenon paralleling the changing frequency of skin cancer in these populations. This fact, plus the finding that SKs were more common as a function of skin surface area on the exposed areas of the body, suggests that sunlight may play a part in their development in those people who are predisposed to develop them.

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