Is Androgenetic Alopecia a Photoaggravated Dermatosis?
Ralph M. Trüeb
Department of Dermatology, University Hospital of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Dermatology 2003;207:343-348 (DOI: 10.1159/000074111)
Progressive thinning of the scalp hair in androgenetic alopecia (AGA) results in a gradual decline in natural protection of the scalp from ultraviolet radiation (UVR). A number of pathologic conditions of the scalp are evidently related to UVR, particularly photosensitive diseases and disorders of the chronically photodamaged bald scalp. The most important chronic effects of UVR are photocarcinogenesis and solar elastosis. Besides these, erosive pustular dermatosis and ‘red scalp’ are distinct disorders peculiar to the balding scalp. While the consequences of sustained UVR on the unprotected scalp are well appreciated, the effects of UVR on hair loss have widely been ignored. However, clinical observations and theoretical considerations suggest that UVR may have negative effects: acute telogen effluvium from UVR has been described, and the production of porphyrins by Propionibacterium sp. in the pilosebaceous duct, with photoactivation of porphyrins leading to oxidative tissue injury, has been implicated in follicular microinflammation. Alternatively, keratinocytes themselves may respond to physicochemical stress from UVR, besides irritants and pollutants, by producing radical oxygen species and nitric oxide and by releasing proinflammatory cytokines, eventually leading to injury of the putative site of follicular stem cells in the superficial portion of the hair follicle. Since all of these processes involved in hair loss share the common feature that they are induced or exacerbated by exposure to sunlight, it is proposed that AGA is a photoaggravated dermatosis that requires photoprotection.