Researchers conducting phone survey to assess frequency of melasma
in Hispanic women

DALLAS - Dec. 4, 2003 - Dermatologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas are conducting a survey to accurately assess the number of Hispanic women in the Dallas and Fort Worth area with melasma, a skin disease that causes patchy - sometimes disfiguring - dark spots on the face.

The endeavor is the first such effort worldwide and will result in a scientific assessment of the prevalence of the disease among Hispanic women.

"We don't know the incidence of melasma in the general population anywhere in the world because estimates are based on biased samples. We have a feeling that this is a much larger problem than anyone realizes," said Dr. Amit Pandya, associate professor of dermatology at UT Southwestern and the study's primary investigator.

Melasma, also known as the mask of pregnancy, is caused by sun exposure or hormonal changes that come with pregnancy and menopause. Large, brown spots that cover the cheeks, the bridge of the nose and upper lip characterize the disease.

It is extremely common among people of Hispanic, Indian, Asian and Mediterranean descent. It is estimated that 60 percent of Hispanic women develop melasma during pregnancy; one third of these women then have melasma for the rest of their lives.

To obtain an assessment, UT Southwestern researchers have developed a series of questions about melasma that a company specializing in phone surveys will use to survey 500 women in predominantly Hispanic communities starting in mid-December.

The survey will be conducted in Spanish and will take only a few minutes. Surveyors are seeking only Hispanic women older than 18 and premenopausal.

The survey is expected to aid future research by determining the burden of the disease and will aid in studies examining quality of life for someone with melasma.

 "It is not until you know the incidence and burden that you can understand the importance of doing research for finding a cure for the condition," Dr. Pandya said. "There are a lot of people with melasma, but because it is considered a cosmetic problem, not much has been done with it in terms of research and treatment."

Preliminary quality-of-life studies have shown that melasma has a significant psychological impact on those who suffer from it, Dr. Pandya said.

 "It's a facial disfigurement," he said. "It affects a woman's decision to go out of the house, self-perception and self-esteem. Heavy makeup can cover it up to some extent, but then that can cause other problems, like acne."


Media Contact: Staishy Bostick Siem

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