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Consider gaps in access and knowledge in diagnosis and treatment in skin of color



LAS VEGAS – Disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of skin of color can stem from incorrect diagnoses and lack of knowledge on the part of clinicians, and also from knowledge gaps on the part of other health care providers and patients, Susan C. Taylor, MD, said in a presentation at MedscapeLive’s annual Las Vegas Dermatology Seminar.

Additionally, some disparities occur because of gaps in access to health care, said Dr. Taylor, vice chair, diversity, equity and inclusion, in the department of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, who moderated an expert panel discussion of treatment tips for several common dermatologic conditions in skin of color patients.

Susan C. Taylor, MD, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

Dr. Susan C. Taylor

Atopic dermatitis angles

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is the fourth most common dermatologic complaint in Black patients, based on data from the United States National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Also, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that Black children are nearly twice as likely as White children to develop AD after controlling for socioeconomic factors, Dr. Taylor said.

When Black patients present with AD, “you may not see the erythema,” said Valerie D. Callender, MD, of Howard University, Washington, who presented on AD. Instead, “you may see more follicular and papular presentations.” Erythema and erythroderma can present as shades of violet, gray, or dark brown in patients with rich skin tones, added Dr. Callender, who practices in Glenn Dale, Md.

Consequently, disease severity can be misinterpreted, she said, noting that data suggest that scoring systems such as the Eczema Area and Severity Index and Scoring Atopic Dermatitis underestimate AD severity in dark skin.

As for treatment, skin of color patients with AD are often as bothered by postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) as by active lesions, so treatment should take these concerns into account, Dr. Callender said. Studies evaluating the effectiveness of AD treatments in diverse populations are limited by lack of representation of racial groups in clinical trials and lack of subset analyses by race.

Acne awareness

An important consideration of acne in skin of color patients is that the acne “might not be red, it might just be darker,” said Andrew F. Alexis, MD, vice-chair for diversity and inclusion in the department of dermatology, and professor of clinical dermatology at Weill Cornell Medicine, New York. A study published in JAMA Dermatology of nearly 30,000 patients with acne from 2007 to 2017 found that non-Hispanic Black patients were more likely than non-Hispanic White patients to see a dermatologist for acne, but Black patients received fewer prescriptions for acne medications than White patients.

Dr. Andrew F. Alexis, chair of dermatology and director of the Skin of Color Center at Mount Sinai St. Luke's and Mount Sinai West hospitals in New York

Dr. Andrew F. Alexis

The study also showed that Black patients who received prescriptions for acne were more likely to receive topical retinoids and topical antibiotics, and less likely to receive oral antibiotics, spironolactone, or isotretinoin, compared with White patients. Similarly, Asian patients were more likely to receive topical antibiotics and less likely to receive oral antibiotics, compared with White patients.

Other panelists shared some of their best practices for acne in patients with skin of color, including treatment with topical retinoids (for inflammation) and spironolactone, and therapies that address both inflammation and pigmentation, such as salicylic acid and azelaic acid. Dr. Callender also advised asking patients about makeup, as they may not know that many types of makeup used to cover acne are in fact comedogenic.


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