Purpose of review: Understanding the effects of race/ethnicity on the risk and expression of systemic rheumatic diseases has potential clinical implications and provides insight into their etiopathogeneses. This review summarizes knowledge of the effects of race/ethnicity on the following nine conditions: antineutrophil cytoplasm antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV), Behçet's disease, dermatomyositis/polymyositis, Henoch-Schönlein purpura, Kawasaki disease, large-vessel vasculitis (LVV), primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and systemic sclerosis (SSc).
Recent findings: Distinct racial/ethnic patterns have emerged for most of the conditions considered here. Areas of progress include the finding that the two AAVs, granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener's) (GPA) and microscopic polyangiitis, exhibit distinct racial/ethnic susceptibilities in disease risk. In addition, nonwhites, with known high risk of SLE and SSc, may also be at a high risk for pSS and have more severe disease. Evidence is accumulating that nonwhites are rarely affected by the LVV giant-cell arteritis. Race/ethnicity-specific genetic risk factors were recently detected for GPA.
Summary: Epidemiologic data have allowed discerning the racial/ethnic profiles for many of the considered systemic rheumatic conditions. Future challenges will be to unravel the genetic, environmental and/or socio-econonomic determinants of the observed racial/ethnic disparities. More research is needed to clarify the impact of race/ethnicity on the AAV Churg-Strauss syndrome, dermatomyositis/polymyositis and Takayasu arteritis.