A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

No More Than Skin Deep?


Study casts doubt about link between eczema and cardiovascular disease.

For the roughly 7 percent of adults who live with atopic dermatitis, a common form of eczema, a new study reports a little good news: despite recent findings to the contrary, the skin condition is likely not associated with an increase in cardiovascular risk factors or diseases.

“In our study, people who reported having atopic dermatitis were not at any increased risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, or strokes,” says lead author Aaron Drucker, MD ScM’17, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Warren Alpert Medical School and a physician with the Lifespan Physicians Group.

The findings appear in the British Journal of Dermatology.

Drucker and a team of co-authors made the findings by analyzing the records of 259,119 adults aged 30-74 in the Canadian Partnership for Tomorrow Project. Drucker led the data analysis with the hypothesis, suggested by two recent studies, that people with atopic dermatitis (AD) would be significantly more likely to have various cardiovascular problems.

Instead, he found that the opposite was the case.

A diagnosis of AD was associated with somewhat reduced risk of stroke (0.79 times the odds), hypertension (0.87 times), diabetes (0.78 times), and heart attack (0.87 times). Drucker emphasizes, however, that he does not believe that AD is protective—given the mixed evidence accumulated by researchers, the best conclusion is that AD is likely not positively associated with cardiovascular disease.

“It’s important to make this clear so it doesn’t get misinterpreted: Even though we found lower rates of these outcomes with atopic dermatitis, we are not interpreting that as atopic dermatitis decreasing the risk,” he says.

Drucker’s co-authors at the Warren Alpert Medical School include Abrar Qureshi, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Dermatology; and Wen-Qing Li, PhD, assistant professor of dermatology.

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