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Study Exposes Sarcoidosis among Black Women

Accounts for 25 percent of deaths

 Boston University researchers found that sarcoidosis accounts for 25 percent of deaths among women in the Black Women’s Health Study who have the disease.

Sarcoidosis causes inflammation in the lungs, lymph nodes, liver, skin and other tissues and stems from unknown causes. Patients affected are typically between the ages of 20 and 40 years old and are more likely to be affected if a close blood relative has the disease. It is most often associated with debilitating lung illness like pulmonary fibrosis. Although it can affect any age and race, black women tend to have a higher incidence of sarcoidosis, as well as a more severe course and higher mortality rates.

In the largest epidemiologic study to date that specifically addresses the mortality of black females with sarcoidosis, researchers analyzed data from the Black Women’s Health Study which enrolled 59,000 African-American patients aged 21-69 and was initiated in 1995. During follow-up through 2008, they used biennial questionnaires to determine demographic data, lifestyle factors, and medical conditions. Self-reported diagnoses of sarcoidosis were established in 96 percent of the cases by medical records or physicians’ checklists. Data on the subjects ’death and causes of death were obtained through the National Death Index.

The conclusion revealed a total of 109 deaths that occurred among 1,152 women with a history of sarcoidosis, which reflects a cumulative mortality rate of 9.5 percent. 25.7 percent of those deaths were directly attributable to sarcoidosis, and 4.6 percent listed pulmonary hypertension or pulmonary fibrosis as the underlying or primary cause of death. Among the group of women whose deaths were directly attributable to sarcoidosis, 46 percent were caused by respiratory failure. The median age of death among all deaths was 58 years.

This study sheds light on sarcoidosis and pulmonary disease as a premature cause of death among black women. "This information can help prepare people with the disease to watch for worrisome symptoms so that treatment can be applied, and to alert doctors to the possibility of severe pulmonary disease in black women with sarcoidosis," Dr. Melissa Tukey, M.D., pulmonary and critical care medicine fellow at Boston Medical Center, was quoted as saying.

Researchers are planning future studies to analyze the Black Women’s Health Study for genetic and environmental influences on sarcoidosis in black women.

Source: ATS 2012 International Conference in San Francisco, May 2012

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