Predominately Black Communities in Boston Have Higher Rates of Lupus; Exposure to Petroleum Products Examined as Cause
Residents of two predominately black communities in Boston -- Roxbury and Mattapan -- have higher rates of lupus compared with other neighborhoods, according to a report conducted by the state Department of Public Health, the Boston Globe reports.
Concerns about the rise of lupus diagnoses among black women from three Boston neighborhoods prompted the department to conduct a comparative study based on neighborhoods. For the study, researchers examined local care providers' medical records from 1999 to 2004 from all of the city's 17 neighborhoods.
Researchers found 178 cases of definite or probable lupus diagnoses between 1999 and 2004, and 37 of those cases were among people from Roxbury. According to the public health department, five out of every 100,000 Boston residents are diagnosed with lupus annually; the rate in Roxbury is 10.4 lupus diagnoses per 100,000 residents and the rate in Mattapan is 7.9 diagnoses per 100,000 people.
As part of the study, researchers also analyzed state toxic waste site records and found that Roxbury historically had more sites than Mattapan. Previous research has linked exposure to petroleum products with higher risk for developing the disease.
After analyzing data from both studies, the researchers questioned whether blacks, who are "already known to be predisposed to the disease, [are] at even greater risk if they once lived near gasoline stations or sites where petroleum products were dumped," the Globe reports.
Elizabeth Wood Karlson, a rheumatologist and epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital who was not a part of the study, said, "As with most complex human diseases, lupus is probably caused by a combination of genes and environments. We just need a lot more research on the genetic factors and the environmental factors" (Smith, Boston Globe, 5/18).