Epidemiologic studies have helped to define the prevalence and incidence of PM, DM, and IBM and have highlighted differences in risk between men and women and in the age at onset for the different forms of myositis. Additionally, these studies have shown that there is a substantially higher risk of PM and DM in certain racial groups which is likely to be genetically determined. These differences are all likely to be fundamental in terms of the pathogenesis of these diseases but, as yet, their full significance remains uncertain. They do, however, suggest that the interplay between genetic and environmental initiating factors is different in the three disorders. Additional population-based studies in homogeneous racial groups, in parallel with studies of susceptibility genes for autoimmune disease, such as those encoding the MHC and inflammatory cytokines, are needed to throw further light on the role of genetic factors in the pathogenesis of the IIMs . Because of the paucity of epidemiologic data on IBM, further studies are required to determine the degree of variation in prevalence in different populations and racial groups, as well as the consistency of the male association and age spectrum of manifestations of the disease. The particularly strong association with DR3 in this form of IIM  clearly points to the importance of genetic factors in pathogenesis, but further studies of DR3-associated genes in the MHC and of other candidate genes are needed to define more precisely the genes that convey susceptibility to the disease in different racial groups. Epidemiologic studies also have the potential to identify environmental factors that may play a part in disease initiation in genetically susceptible individuals. Seasonal patterns of disease onset have been reported, particularly in patients with DM [49-51] as well as seasonal variation in the frequency of relapses , pointing to the probable involvement of intercurrent infections, ultraviolet light exposure, or other environmental factors in disease initiation and reactivation. Further prospective studies are required to determine the contribution of environmental exposures and how they interact with genetic susceptibility factors to lead to myositis. One of the major limitations of a number of the previous epidemiologic studies is the lack of precision in the diagnostic criteria used and the classification of cases of IIM. The Bohan and Peter criteria  which were used in most studies after 1975, were introduced before IBM was recognized as an entity distinct from PM; most of the published incidence and prevalence figures for PM are therefore likely to be inaccurate. Multicentered, interdisciplinary, prospective studies, incorporating comprehensive clinical, laboratory, and pathologic information, are needed to develop and validate better diagnostic and classification criteria and to determine the true prevalence and incidence of the many forms of IIM.