Raj Chovatiya, MD, PhD: Addressing Racial, Age Disparities in Vitiligo

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This interview with Dr. Chovatiya featured a discussion about new findings from a recent study on epidemiologic data on vitiligo in the US.

In his interview with HCPLive, Raj Chovatiya, MD, Phd, spoke on recent findings indicating that Hispanic/Latino, Asian-American, and older patients have the highest burden of vitiligo found in the US.1

Chovatiya is known for his expertise in the field of dermatology, serving as director for the Center for Eczema and Itch at Northwestern, as well as an assistant professor of dermatology at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University.

He first discussed the findings of the study in general, as well as the strength of the study’s scope with regard to its patients.

“We have a handful of studies of vitiligo out there,” Chlovatiya explained. “Some are more based on the patient's perspective. Some are cross sectional in terms of databases, but we've not really seen a study this large in terms of the number of health records, it's touched on to really try to come up with better, more accurate estimates about prevalence incidents, and then most interestingly, what groups potentially may bear a bigger burden of vitiligo in this country.”

Chovatiya was first asked about potential reasons behind some of the observed age-related trends in vitiligo, including its prevalence being highest for older patients.

“Yeah, you know, that was an interesting finding,” he said. “I would suspect that probably has something to do with perhaps increased healthcare resource utilization in this population. Those are folks that are going to be going much more to the clinic, to the hospital to a dermatologist elsewhere, and maybe getting this picked up, and therefore sort of higher incidence and potentially prevalence in that group.”

Chovatiya added that in the case of vitiligo, it can really present at any age since it is known to be a fairly equal opportunity offender across the lifespan.

“There are some studies that suggest there are some peaks of incidences, but I would probably suspect that some of these age trends are just related to how much health care is being utilized by that group,” he noted.

Then, Chovatiya was asked about prevalence rates which were found to have been nearly double for adults compared to pediatric patients.

“I mean, it would be nice to say that there's some real mechanistic difference here in terms of the way that vitiligo works that could explain this, but we don't have data to necessarily support that,” he said. “But I guess that that hypothesis could stay on the table. It could relate to what I was just talking about a bit as well, in terms of individuals just presenting for care. I mean, you may think about vitiligo, perhaps requiring some type of specialist diagnosis, somebody seeing a skin related physician, somebody at a young age may not have had enough doctor appointments with the nurse specialist to have run across a dermatologist at some point in time.”

He was also asked about the study’s findings revealing higher rates of diagnosed vitiligo among racial ethnic minority populations, especially among Asian American and Hispanic or Latino patients.

“Yeah, I think that just thinking about disparities in particular groups, especially with vitiligo is critical, because we know that it has a much stronger mental, physical, psychosocial burden in certain groups, and even a very different historical burden in certain groups as well,” he said. “So based on individuals who may not necessarily have very lightly-toned skin or White skin, where it may be just harder to pick up vitiligo in those groups, that could be one explanation. We do know that individuals with darker tone skin and that could include people in the Asian American and/or the Hispanic-Latino category are ones that are more likely to seek care. Therefore, some of their numbers in terms of incidence and prevalence may just look higher based on this type of study design.”

To find out more about these and other views by Chovatiya on the findings, view the full interview above.

The quotes contained in this description were edited for the purposes of clarity.

References

  1. Mastacouris N, Strunk A, Garg A. Incidence and Prevalence of Diagnosed Vitiligo According to Race and Ethnicity, Age, and Sex in the US. JAMA Dermatol. Published online July 19, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2023.2162.
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