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Serum zinc linked to premature canities

Tristan Manalac
14 Aug 2018

Serum concentration of trace zinc appears to be correlated with premature canities, while trace ferrum and copper are not, according to a poster presented at the recently concluded 23rd Regional Conference of Dermatology (RCD 2018), in Surabaya, Indonesia.

The cross-sectional study included 62 participants, half of which had premature canities while the other half was designated as controls. Diagnoses were based on anamnesis and clinical examinations. Blood samples were collected for measurement of trace elements. The Mann-Whitney test was used to compare serum ferrum levels, while the independent t-test was used to compare zinc and copper levels.

Ten patients had abnormal serum zinc levels, most of whom had been diagnosed with premature canities (90 percent vs 10 percent). On the other hand, of the 52 patients with normal serum zinc levels, majority were controls (57.7 percent vs 42.3 percent). Overall, serum zinc was statistically significant with respect to premature canities (p=0.006). [Ashrof P, et al, RCD 2018]

In comparison, serum copper concentrations were only of borderline significance (p=0.056). All four participants who reported abnormal copper concentrations were controls, while majority of those with normal levels had been diagnosed with premature canities (53.4 percent vs 46.6 percent).

A similar trend was observed for serum ferrum, where majority of the patients with normal levels were those with premature canities (51.9 percent vs 48.1 percent) and those with abnormal levels were predominantly controls (60.0 percent vs 40.0 percent). Serum ferrum was unrelated to premature canities (p=0.366).

These findings were confirmed when the mean concentrations of the trace elements were analysed. Serum zinc was significantly elevated in controls than in patients (78.23±14.23 vs 65.16±11.16; p=0.000), while no statistical significance was observed for serum ferrum (121.23±55.84 vs 115.35±49.61; p=0.499).

Notably, serum copper levels became statistically significant, with premature canities patients demonstrating significantly reduced levels (1,029.26±120.89 vs 1,191.19±290.93; p=0.006).

Premature canities is the greying of hair that occurs at an earlier age. While thought to be predominantly genetic in nature, the exact cause remains mostly unknown. The objective of the present study is to identify the potential role of serum levels of trace elements in premature canities. [Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2013;79:641-653]

“Few studies have reported the association of premature canities and trace elements in serum such as iron, zinc and copper level,” said researchers, however noting that a relationship between these trace elements have been reported and that the three may play a role in melanogenesis. [Biol Trace Elem Res 2012;146:30-34]

Specifically, copper ions are essential for the function of tyrosinase enzymes, which convert tyrosine to 3,4-dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) through an oxidative reaction, researchers explained. DOPA, in turn, is the source of eumelanin and pheomelanin, the two types of pigments involved in melanogenesis. [Int J Cosmet Sci 2008;30:233-257]

“Ferrum and zinc ions also play a role in melanogenesis, as in the preparation of dopachrome to 5,6-dihydroxyindole and oxidative polymerization of 5,6-dihydroxyindoles to melanin pigments. Trace element deficiencies cause a spectrum of clinical manifestations especially on the sin and hair,” researchers added. [Int J Cosmet Sci 2008;30:233-257]

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