Patients of Color Significantly Underrepresented in Dermatology Research

doctor and patient, patient and doctor of color
Investigators conducted a systematic review for studies regarding race, ethnicity, skin of color, and dermatology.

The dearth of literature addressing dermatology disorders in patients with skin of color (SoC) was highlighted in a review article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Efforts to address these disparities in dermatology research are essential to providing appropriate care to patients of color. 

Investigators conducted a systematic review of PubMed for studies published from 1999 to 2019 regarding race, ethnicity, SoC, and dermatology. Of the more than 70,000 studies identified, only 1191 (1.6%) specifically addressed disorders in SoC. The most commonly researched disorders were acne, dyschromias, and atopic dermatitis. Clinical studies were the most common study design for acne (50.8%) and dyschromias (42.6%) research, and analytical and translational studies comprised the majority of publications on atopic dermatitis (22.9% and 35.1%, respectively). The researchers found that patients of color are more likely to experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, dyschromias, and atopic dermatitis than White patients. 

The majority of studies on acne (54.7%), atopic dermatitis (63%), and dyschromias (64.1%) were conducted in Asian populations. Korea, China, and Japan accounted for more than 35% of all SoC studies in this analysis. There was a particular paucity of research in Black, Hispanic, Native American and Pacific Islander populations, the researchers noted.

A limitation of the study, as cited by the investigators, is that the search terms used may not have returned all SOC published research pertaining to this study.

“Considering the significant presence of SoC populations worldwide, it is important that research efforts reflect the needs and diversity of all populations” the study authors concluded. “It is important that future research address these health disparities and that more studies be conducted in SoC [populations].”


Montgomery SN, Elbuluk N. A quantitative analysis of research publications focused on the top chief complaints in skin of color patients [published online August 12, 2020]. J Am Acad Dermatol. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2020.08.031