Factors that affect skin aging: a cohort-based survey on twins

Arch Dermatol. 2009 Dec;145(12):1375-9. doi: 10.1001/archdermatol.2009.303.


Objective: To identify environmental factors that correlate with skin photoaging, controlling for genetic susceptibility by using a questionnaire administered to twins.

Design: The survey collected information about each participant's Fitzpatrick type, history of skin cancer, smoking and drinking habits, and weight from a cohort of twins. Clinicians then assigned a clinical photodamage score to each participant.

Setting: The annual Twins Days Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio.

Participants: A voluntary cohort of twins from the general community, mostly from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and the northeastern United States. The survey was completed on a voluntary basis by sets of monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins. A total of 130 surveys taken by 65 complete twin pairs were analyzed.

Main outcome measure: Skin aging was assessed using a validated photographic scale of photodamage, graded by such characteristics as wrinkling and pigmentation change.

Results: Photodamage scores among twins of a pair, whether MZ or DZ, were highly correlated (P = .92). Factors found to predict higher photodamage include history of skin cancer (P < .001), zygosity status (MZ vs DZ) (P = .001), weight (P = .02), and cigarette smoking (P = .046). Alcohol consumption was significantly associated with lower photodamage scores (P = .003).

Conclusions: The study of twins provides a unique opportunity to control for genetic susceptibility in order to elucidate environmental influences on skin aging. The relationships found between smoking, weight, sunscreen use, skin cancer, and photodamage in these twin pairs may help to motivate the reduction of risky behaviors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diseases in Twins / epidemiology*
  • Diseases in Twins / pathology
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Skin Aging / genetics*
  • Skin Aging / pathology
  • Skin Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Skin Neoplasms / pathology
  • Twins, Dizygotic*
  • Twins, Monozygotic*