Integrating skin color assessments into clinical practice and research: A review of current approaches

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Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology


Skin color classification can have importance in skin health, pigmentary disorders, and oncologic condition assessments. It is also critical for evaluating disease course and response to a variety of therapeutic interventions and aids in accurate classification of participants in clinical research studies. A panel of dermatologists conducted a literature review to assess the strengths and limitations of existing classification scales, as well as to compare their preferences and utilities. We identified 17 skin classification systems utilized in dermatologic settings. These systems include a range of parameters such as UV light reactivity, race, ethnicity, and degree of pigmentation. The Fitzpatrick skin type classification is most widely used and validated. However it has numerous limitations including its conflation with race, ethnicity, and skin color. There is a lack of validation data available for the remaining scales. There are significant deficiencies in current skin classification instruments. Consensus-based initiatives to drive the development of validated and reliable tools are critically needed.

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ePub ahead of print