Are females more sensitive to allergens than males? If they are, is it because of something innate in female skin or because of life patterns of exposure to irritants?
Exogenous and endogenous factors have been implicated in the development of allergic contact dermatitis. Exogenous factors include the allergen’s chemical and physical properties; endogenous are believed to be age, skin and other diseases, genetic background, skin sensitivity, and — the subject of this review — gender. The precise role that gender plays in the development of allergic contact dermatitis remains sub judice. While there is a clinical belief that women are more reactive than men, various data suggest that this hypothesis is oversimplified. No definitive correlation between female skin and increased allergic dermatitis has been documented. Gender differences could potentially give rise to specially tailored products (i.e., soaps, fragrances) and additional product labeling requirements. We previously reviewed this area in 1995; this paper updates subsequent experience.
Exposure to nickel sulfate, potassium dichromate, thiuram mix, and cobalt chloride: Under similar conditions, studies from southern Sweden2 and Turkey reported some conflicting results. Both studies investigated incidence of positive reactions to a series of contact allergens. Positive reactions are traditionally regarded as incidence of reddening of the skin, or erythema, at the site of application of a given compound. In the Lantinga study from southern Sweden,2 nickel sulfate 5% caused more positive reactions in women than in men (26.3% compared to 6.5%, p=0.013a) just as it did in Turkey3 (30% compared to 5.4%, p<0.001). However, the Swedish and Turkish studies found interesting results with regards to potassium dichromate 0.5%, thiuram mix 1%, and cobalt chloride 1.0%. All compounds under consideration were diluted in petrolatum. The experimental guidelines of the International Contact Dermatitis Research Group (ICDRG) were followed.
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