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23-12-2010 | Article

Environmental factors linked to eczema prevalence in USA


Free abstract

MedWire News: Eczema is a significant problem in the USA, affecting around 9-18% of children aged 17 years and under, data from the large National Survey of Children's Health show.

The researchers also note that associations associated with an increased risk for the skin disease included living in a metropolitan/urban area compared with a rural area, having a higher level of education, and being of Black ethnicity.

The findings, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, help point to environmental factors that may contribute to the development of eczema.

Eric Simpson, from Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, USA, and colleagues studied data from the large population survey of over 100,000 families from all 50 US states.

Overall, 10.7% of children were reported to have been diagnosed with eczema in the previous 12 months. The prevalence ranged from 8.7% to 18.1% between states and districts.

The highest prevalence was reported in the East Coast States, as well as in Nevada, Utah, and Idaho.

Young children were at greater risk for eczema than older children, as were those living in households reporting education levels greater than high school.

After adjusting for these risk factors and known others, urban living and Black ethnicity emerged as additional significant risk factors, increasing the risk for eczema by 67% and 70% compared with rural living and other ethnicities, respectively.

Commenting on the findings, Hywel Williams, from University Hospitals NHS Trust in Nottingham, UK, said they signal that the environment is critical in the development of eczema.

"Although genetic factors... help to explain some variation in eczema, it is likely that interaction with environmental factors plays a critical role given the associations shown in this study and the increasing prevalence of disease over the past 20 years."

He added: "The challenge is now to identify the environmental factors that are amenable to public health manipulation in the hope that this knowledge will bring us one step closer to eczema prevention."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lucy Piper