omen who have an autoimmune disease have suffered from a lack of focus and a scattered research approach. For example, autoimmunity is known to have a genetic basis and tends to cluster in families as different autoimmune diseases — a mother may have lupus; her daughter, juvenile diabetes and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; her sister, Graves’ disease; and her grandmother, rheumatoid arthritis.

Different ethnic groups are more susceptible to certain autoimmune diseases. In lupus, for example, African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women are two to three times more likely to develop the disease than Caucasian women.¹ And 9 out of 10 people who have lupus are women.²

In 2013, two epidemiological studies published in the online edition of the journal, Arthritis and Rheumatism, confirmed this long-held belief by the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. (AARDA) and many others in the autoimmune disease community – that Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE or lupus) disproportionately affects young African-American women. However, these studies revealed the incidence rate is far greater and impacts these women at a much earlier age than previously thought.

The two studies from National Lupus Registries in Georgia and Michigan are from the largest and most far-reaching epidemiology study ever conducted on lupus. An extensive review of records from hospitals, specialists’ offices and clinical laboratories within Georgia and Michigan showed African-American females developed lupus at a younger age than white females.

1. Society for Women’s Health Research and the National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc. Autoimmune Diseases in Women. 2002.
2. National Women’s Health Information Center. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health.

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