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Study Points Toward Stark Disparity of Academic Papers Referencing Sunscreen in Patients With Skin of Color


A poster from Maui Derm Hawaii revealed an even more significant disparity than researchers anticipated.

Krakenimages.com/Adobe Stock
Krakenimages.com/Adobe Stock

In academic papers and research, there is a stark disparity of those referencing sunscreen in patients with skin of color (SOC), according to data presented in a poster at the Maui Derm Hawaii 2024 conference in Wailea, Hawaii.1

A recent study authored by the Physicians Council for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion delved into the representation of sunscreen use in patients with SOC within medical literature, aiming to assess potential disparities in clinical evidence and best practices.

The researchers hypothesized that the existing literature inadequately addresses the specific needs of SOC individuals, noting the already established trend of minimal representation of patients with darker skin types in scientific literature and clinic trials.2

Researchers conducted a search of online research on PubMed, utilizing keywords related to sunscreen, skin aging, and various ethnicities. The identified references were categorized by skin condition and ethnicity, providing a comprehensive overview of the literature. The researchers also examined the temporal trends and content types of the identified papers.

From 1988 to 2022, approximately 4.35% of the total 5760 papers referencing sunscreen focused on patients with SOC. Researchers noted that the majority of these papers emerged post-2007, with a substantial increase noted since 2014.

As of June 2022, 21% of total sunscreen papers were dedicated to patients with SOC, indicating a potential record-high for the year.

The paper categorization revealed a predominant focus on sunscreen knowledge and patient behaviors, while clinical trials were notably scarce. The breakdown by condition and ethnicity underscored variations in coverage, with American Indians and Pacific Islanders identified as particularly underserved.

The study's findings highlighted a significant gap in the representation of sunscreen use in patients with SOC within medical literature.

The disparity, though initially suspected, calls for focused attention, study authors wrote. The study emphasized the urgency of increased research and awareness to ensure that diverse populations receive adequate attention in dermatological literature in order to reshape the discourse around sunscreen and photoprotection.


  1. Physicians Council for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Skin of color is underrepresented in medical literature describing use of sunscreen for photoprotection and to prevent skin aging – preliminary quantitative results from a literature search. Poster presented at: Maui Derm Hawaii 2024; January 22-26, 2024; Wailea, HI.
  2. Mineroff J, Nguyen JK, Jagdeo J. Racial and ethnic underrepresentation in dermatology clinical trials. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2023;89(2):293-300. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2023.04.011
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