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World Records in Dermatology

Lenard J. Hoenig, MD
Arch Dermatol. 2012;148(2):178. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2011.1616.
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Many of us enjoy reading about the great feats and accomplishments that can be found in the Guinness World Records1 and on its official Web site. This famous encyclopedic reference covers the whole range of human endeavors, listing the greatest and worst records of all time. A few of the amazing achievements in the field of dermatology are listed below:

  1. Longest beard —living male. This record belongs to Sarwan Singh of Canada, whose beard measured 2.37 m (7 ft 9 in) on March 4, 2010.

  2. Longest hair (female). Xie Qiuping of China has been growing her hair since 1973, from the age of 13 years. On May 8, 2004, her hair measured 5.627 m (18 ft 5.54 in).

  3. Most tattooed senior citizen (female). Isobel Varley, age 72 years, of the United Kingdom had 93% of her body covered with tattoos as of April 25, 2009.

  4. Longest fingernails (female) —ever. Lee Redmond of the United States holds this record. Her nails measured a total length of 8.65 m (28 ft 4.5 in) on February 23, 2008. She started growing her nails in 1979 but unfortunately lost them in an automobile accident in early 2009.

  5. First use of smallpox as a biological weapon. This incident occurred on June 24, 1763, in the aftermath of the French and Indian War during Pontiac's War, an uprising by Native American tribes that were dissatisfied with British policies. During the siege of Fort Pitt, Pennsylvania, Captain Simeon Ecuyer, the commander of the British fort, gave 2 Delaware tribal emissaries 2 blankets and a handkerchief that had been exposed to smallpox. Guinness World Records claims that epidemics followed, killing more than 50% of the affected tribes. Historians debate whether the blankets were effective in spreading the disease, since smallpox outbreaks were already widespread from other sources of the infection.2

  6. Oldest disease. Earlier editions of Guinness World Records (eg, 2004) listed leprosy as the oldest disease, dating back to Egypt 1350 BCE. This record is no longer cited. Tuberculosis is now considered to be among the oldest of human diseases. Recently, evidence of tuberculosis was found in a 500  000-year-old fossil hominin skull from Turkey.3 The bone lesions were consistent with a diagnosis of Leptomenigitis tuberculosa.

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