Whole-Body Exams Reveal Skin Diseases Common in Older Patients

elderly mature old patient hands age spots
MODEL RELEASED. Female doctor examining senior patients hands.
New data regarding the prevalence of skin disease in adults aged 70 and older, and the association of cutaneous diseases and socioeconomic status, sex, and living status is provided.

More than three-quarters of adults aged 70 years and older have at least 1 skin disease that requires treatment or follow-up, and more than one-third have 3 or more skin diseases, according to findings from a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Researchers conducted a cross-sectional study of adults aged 70 to 93 years as part of the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 Study. Data regarding skin examinations were available for 552 adults (62.7% women; 100% white), and dermatologists performed a whole-body skin examination.

The researchers found that 75.7% of the study population had at least 1 skin disease that required treatment or follow-up, and 39.1% had 3 or more simultaneous skin diseases. Skin diseases were more common in men than in women (P < .001). Tinea pedis (48.6%), onychomycosis (29.9%), rosacea (25.6%), actinic keratosis (22.3%), and asteatotic eczema (20.8%) were the most common skin diseases.

Overall, benign skin tumors were the most frequent skin findings. Of those, seborrheic keratoses were the most common, as 78.8% of the population had at least 1 and 15.8% had at least 50. Lentigo senilis was observed in 69.5% of the participants, followed by cherry angiomas (63.2%) and melanocytic nevi (50.1%). A total of 50 or more melanocytic nevi were found in 7.4% of study cases.

The investigators also found some association between skin diseases and socioeconomic status (SES) and living status. Cherry angiomas were more common in high SES participants than in those with low SES (P < .05), and urticaria and psoriasis were more frequent in those with low education status (P < .05). “According to our present findings, the influence of SES on the presence of skin diseases diminishes with advanced age,” stated the researchers.

The authors noted a few study limitations, such as only point prevalences were determined and all study participants were white.

“This study provides new data about the epidemiology of skin diseases in older people,” wrote the researchers. “Our principal finding is that dermatological disorders are extremely common in older individuals and should be considered by physicians treating geriatric patients. A whole-body clinical skin examination should be encouraged because it may reveal hidden cutaneous symptoms and it ensures timely diagnoses and appropriate treatment.”


Sinikumpu S-P, Jokelainen J, Haarala AK, et al. The high prevalence of skin diseases in adults aged 70 and older [published online August 4, 2020]. J Am Geriatr Soc. doi: 10.1111/jgs.16706