Data published in the November/ December 2005 issue of the Aesthetic Surgery Journal suggest the potential for developing therapies to predict, prevent, and treat stretch marks. This problem, most commonly associated with pregnancy, weight gain, or extreme weight loss, occurs when the skin is overstretched and the fibers in the elastic middle layer of the skin are torn. Researchers report that the incidence of stretch marks varies widely among women at similar risk levels.

“The question of why some women get stretch marks and others don’t has vexed specialists and patients for many years,” says V. Leroy Young, MD, FACS, associate editor of the Aesthetic Surgery Journal and the subject of this month’s cover story. “Now that we have identified these metabolic and biochemical differences in the skin, we may soon be able to take steps to help women effectively and reliably prevent stretch marks, something many women have been waiting for a long time.”

The study found that cells in samples taken from healthy-looking skin in women with stretch marks could not quickly reproduce or repair stretch-dependent skin injuries. The skin of women with stretch marks also had pronounced deficiencies of total DNA and total protein, unlike the skin in women without stretch marks.

The report also states that skin biopsy can be used to identify those at risk. In addition, it showed that the cells responsible for the skin’s resilience are metabolically and biochemically impaired in both the normal and stretch mark-affected skin of women with stretch marks, compared to women without the condition.