People with the skin condition rosacea are at greater risk of heart disease, joint problems, metabolic disease, visual disturbances and type 2 diabetes, researchers have shown for the first time.

In particular, Caucasians with rosacea have a substantially higher risk of malignant melanoma, one of the most aggressive and deadly types of skin cancer.

Rosacea causes redness and rashes on the cheeks, chin, nose and forehead, and is most common in women aged between 30 and 50. Studies have found that people of Celtic descent and fair-skinned northern Europeans are more susceptible to the disease.

Theories as to what causes rosacea, including UV exposure, smoking, alcohol, stress and genetics, have never been proven and there is not long-term cure for it.

The team behind the latest German study say their findings justify further investigations into this poorly-understood condition.

The team looked at data from 122,444 people with rosacea and compared them to a similar number of people without the condition.

They said: “Here, we were able to show an association not only to metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, joint problems and ophthalmologic disease, but were able to identify a strong association of rosacea and malignant melanoma as well.

“When viewed separately from other demographics, our Asian sub-cohort showed no association of rosacea and malignant melanoma, which is in accordance with previous data from Asian working groups.”

Their findings around malignant melanoma prompted further investigation, with the researchers saying: “With the starkly increased risk for malignant melanoma in our rosacea population, we performed a Kaplan–Meier analysis of this subset of patients.

“The survival probability at the end of the time window was 92.51% and 97.71% for the cohort with or without rosacea, respectively…the mortality of malignant melanoma patients was higher if they also suffered from rosacea.”

Previous studies have linked rosacea to inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune disorders, coronary artery disease, and similar chronic inflammatory conditions.

Read more in Scientific Reports.

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