Photoprotection Recommended for People of Color

Doug Brunk

May 17, 2021

Dermatologists and other clinicians should advise their patients with skin of color to practice sensible sun protection, including wearing protective clothing, staying in the shade when outdoors, and applying a tinted sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater to exposed areas, according to Henry W. Lim, MD.

In addition, "with rigorous photoprotection, vitamin D supplementation should be advised to patients," Lim, a former chair of the department of dermatology at Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, said during the Society for Pediatric Dermatology pre-AAD meeting. "One multivitamin a day should be sufficient for most patients. This is especially relevant because we do know that skin of color patients tend to have lower vitamin D levels to start with."

Photoprotection for people of color helps minimize the development of photodermatoses, postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, polymorphous light eruption, and chronic actinic dermatitis, he said. In a retrospective chart review of 1,080 people conducted at four academic medical centers in the United States, Lim and colleagues found a higher proportion of polymorphous light eruption and chronic actinic dermatitis in Black individuals, and a higher proportion of photoallergic contact dermatitis, phototoxic drug eruptions, phytophotodermatitis, porphyria, and solar urticaria in White individuals.

"Another pediatric photodermatosis, actinic prurigo, tends to occur most often in Mestizo individuals, patients of American Indian heritage," he added. "This is a significant issue, especially in Latin America."

In a systematic review of 20 studies in the medical literature, researchers assessed the quality of life and psychological impact of photodermatoses in affected patients. Studies included in the review drew from 2,487 adults and 119 children. Among adults, the self-administered Dermatology Life Quality Index (DLQI) revealed that photodermatoses adversely affected employment, education, and leisure activities in adults. Among children, the condition adversely affected outdoor activities and exacerbated symptoms in those with erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP).

As for skin cancer risk, the association between UV light exposure and the development of melanoma is not as strong in people with skin of color, compared with light-skinned individuals. In a recent systematic review of 13 studies on the topic, 11 showed no association, one showed a small positive relationship in Black males and 1 showed a weak association in Hispanic males.

"The conclusion from this review is that UV protection for melanoma prevention in people of color is not supported by most studies," said Lim, who was not affiliated with the review. "The authors also noted, however, that the evidence is of moderate to low quality. Larger studies should be done."

The association between UV exposure and the development to squamous cell cancer in skin of color is also not strong. "However, we do know that sun exposure is associated with the development of basal cell carcinoma in this population," he said.

Sunscreen Ingredient Studies

Lim also highlighted findings from two studies related to the effect of sunscreen application on plasma concentration of sunscreen active ingredients, both in adults. In the most recent analysis, scientists at the Food and Drug Administration and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical trial in 48 individuals with skin types II-IV.

Participants applied sunscreen at 2 mg/cm2 to 75% of body surface area at 0 hours on day 1 and 4 times on day 2 through day 4 at 2-hour intervals. Over the course of 21 days, the researchers collected 34 blood samples from each participant, and evaluated six active ingredients in four sunscreen products: avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate.

For all active ingredients, levels of greater than 0.5 ng/mL were detected after a single application on day 1. Levels of greater than 0.5 ng/mL were detected up to day 7, and up to day 21 for oxybenzone. All were detected in skin on days 7 and 14 via tape stripping. The authors called for further studies to determine the clinical significance of these findings and emphasized that the results "do not indicate that individuals should refrain from the use of sunscreen."

The FDA is asking for additional studies on the safety of these 12 filters, noted Lim, who is a past president of the American Academy of Dermatology. On Feb. 26, 2019, the FDA issued a proposed rule regarding sunscreen drug products for over-the-counter human use. It proposes that the 16 UV filters be classified into one of 3 categories. Category I would include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are generally recognized as safe and effective (GRASE). Category II would include PABA and trolamine salicylate, which are not used in the United States and are not GRASE. Category III would include 12 filters that lack insufficient safety data to make a determination regarding GRASE.

The final FDA rule was scheduled to be released in September of 2020, but a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the FDA "will be moving from a laborious rulemaking process to an administrative order process, which means it should not take as long to implement a monograph," Lim said. "The FDA has decided that there will not be a final rule regarding sunscreen drug products," but is required to issue a proposed administrative order by Sept. 27, 2021, he said.

When the final administrative order has been issued, manufacturers would have at least 1 year to comply with sunscreen products offered in the United States. "The approximate timeline is probably going to be 2023," he said.

Lim disclosed that he is an investigator for Incyte, L’Oreal, Pfizer, and the Patient-centered Outcomes Research Institute, and a consultant for Pierre Fabre, ISDIN, Ferndale, La Roche–Posay, and Beiersdorf. He has been a speaker at general educational sessions sponsored by La Roche–Posay and Cantabria Labs.

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