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Soldiers Suffer From Skin Diseases

February 23, 2009

When soldiers leave the battlefield, their health is still a big concern. A new study identifies the most common skin diseases that affect many military personnel in combat zones, causing them to return home.

Dermatitis, moles, hives and cancerous skin lesions are cited as the most common diagnoses in the war zone. Skin conditions account for more than half of the days lost by frontline combat units, particularly in tropical and subtropical climates. Researchers say sun exposure, high temperatures, humidity, insects, crowded living conditions, chafing and sweating due to protective gear all aggravate soldiers’ skin.

In their study of 170 military personnel who left combat zones for ill-defined dermatologic reasons, 20 percent were diagnosed with dermatitis. Nine-percent were diagnosed with a cancerous skin lesion and 7 percent with uncertain diagnoses.

“Although skin diseases cause few fatalities, they have an appreciable role in combat and operational primary care,” study authors wrote. “[This] series illustrates the dermatologic diagnoses that are troublesome for both patients and clinicians in U.S. Central Command.”

Researchers recommend identifying soldiers with these conditions before deployment and focusing on prevention and treatment to reduce the number of evacuations due to dermatological conditions.

SOURCE: Archives of Dermatology, 2009;145:165-170

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