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December 13, 2017

Penn study: Minorities are less likely to see a doctor for common skin disease

Research Dermatology
Stock_Carroll - Penn Medicine Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The Smilow Center for Translational Research at the University of Pennsylvania.

Minorities in the United States are less likely than whites to see a doctor for a potentially serious skin condition, a recent Penn Medicine study found.

The findings, published this week in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, showed that black, Asian and other non-Hispanic minorities are about 40 percent less likely to see a dermatologist for psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory condition that causes raised, red patches covered by silvery scales on mainly the scalp, knees and elbows, researchers said.

On average, 50.8 percent of whites saw a dermatologist for their psoriasis. That compares to 38.3 percent for African-Americans, Asians, native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and others, researchers said. Among Hispanics, 46.7 percent saw a dermatologist for their psoriasis, they said.

Furthermore, the study showed that whites also averaged about twice as many overall visits to a doctor. Researchers found whites averaged 2.69 visits per year, compared to 1.87 for Hispanics and 1.30 for non-Hispanic minorities.

“While psoriasis is less common among minorities, previous research has shown their disease can be more severe," Dr. Junko Takeshita, an assistant professor, said in a statement.

Using information from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, researchers found that 842 of 1.6 million Americans included in the data suffered from the condition from 2001 to 2013. 

Overall, the National Psoriasis Foundation estimates that psoriasis affects about 7.5 million Americans. In moderate to severe cases, it carries an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and premature death, researchers said.

“When you combine the results of our study with the knowledge that psoriasis severity and quality of life impact suggest a larger burden of psoriasis among minorities, it brings into focus the racial gaps that exist in psoriasis care,” Takeshita said.

Researchers said more study is needed to understand what may cause the disparity, and if the gap in medical care directly contributes to more severity in disease among minorities.

“Ultimately, increasing awareness of these disparities is the first step in trying to provide equitable care and improve outcomes for all individuals with psoriasis,” Takeshita said.