January 18, 2004
Psoriasis Occurs Less Frequently
in African Americans
Than Caucasians According to New Penn Study
(Philadelphia, PA) -- Psoriasis is a genetic skin disease
believed to be triggered when signals sent by the immune
system become faulty and speed up the growth cycle in
skin cells. The additional cells form raised patches
of thick, scaly, red plaques which may appear on hands,
elbows, lower back, feet, scalp, or genitals. The patches
often cause moderate to intense burning or itching and
can have a serious impact on the quality of the patient's
physical and emotional life.
In order to better understand and address varying health
needs, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine launched a population-based
study to measure the incidence and burden of psoriasis
among African Americans, compared with that of Caucasians.
The study was done in collaboration with the National
Psoriasis Foundation and is published in the January
issue of the Journal of the American Academy of
The population sample included over 27,000 U.S. residents,
18 years of age or older, who were randomly selected
and interviewed via telephone. Joel M. Gelfand,
MD, assistant professor of Dermatology, noted
that the study is the largest of its kind in the United
States, and the first to address the frequency of psoriasis
in African Americans.
Results showed that African Americans are approximately
52% less likely than Caucasians to have been given a
diagnosis of psoriasis by a physician. This chronic
condition however, is common in both groups (1.3% in
African Americans compared to 2.5% in Caucasians.).
The lower prevalence of the condition in African Americans
may be due to genetic or environmental factors and remains
an issue still to be investigated. Differences were
also found in the size of the area affected by psoriasis,
which was generally larger in African Americans.
Although not statistically significant, African Americans
were found to be less likely to get information about
psoriasis online or from advocacy organizations; as
well as less likely to discuss the condition with family
members or friends who also have psoriasis. Both groups
voiced similar effects of the condition on their day-to-day
lives, sought care from general practitioners and dermatologists
at the same rate, and showed similar satisfaction levels
with treatment. Women were also more likely than men
to have been diagnosed with the condition.
Other members of the research team are Penn colleagues
in the Department of Dermatology and the Center for
Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics David J. Margolis,
MD, PhD and Joe Kist, MD; as well as Robert S. Stern,
MD, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Tamar Nijsten, MD,
University Hospital, Antwerp; Steven R. Feldman, MD,
PhD, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem;
John Thomas, MS, LaunchBox, LLC, Portland; and Tara
Rolstad, MBA, National Psoriasis Foundation, Portland.
This study was supported by grants from the Dermatology
Foundation, the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal,
and Skin Diseases, Amgen/Wyeth, Biogenidec, and the
American Skin Association.
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