Global burden of skin disease as reflected in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

JAMA Dermatol. 2014 Sep;150(9):945-51. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2014.709.


Importance: Research prioritization should be guided by impact of disease.

Objective: To determine whether systematic reviews and protocol topics in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (CDSR) reflect disease burden, measured by disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) from the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2010 project.

Design, setting, and participants: Two investigators independently assessed 15 skin conditions in the CDSR for systematic review and protocol representation from November 1, 2013, to December 6, 2013. The 15 skin diseases were matched to their respective DALYs from GBD 2010. An official publication report of all reviews and protocols published by the Cochrane Skin Group (CSG) was also obtained to ensure that no titles were missed. There were no study participants other than the researchers, who worked with databases evaluating CDSR and GBD 2010 skin condition disability data.

Main outcomes and measures: Relationship of CDSR topic coverage (systematic reviews and protocols) with percentage of total 2010 DALYs, 2010 DALY rank, and DALY percentage change from 1990 to 2010 for 15 skin conditions.

Results: All 15 skin conditions were represented by at least 1 systematic review in CDSR; 69% of systematic reviews and 67% of protocols by the CSG covered the 15 skin conditions. Comparing the number of reviews/protocols and disability, dermatitis, melanoma, nonmelanoma skin cancer, viral skin diseases, and fungal skin diseases were well matched. Decubitus ulcer, psoriasis, and leprosy demonstrated review/protocol overrepresentation when matched with corresponding DALYs. In comparison, acne vulgaris, bacterial skin diseases, urticaria, pruritus, scabies, cellulitis, and alopecia areata were underrepresented in CDSR when matched with corresponding DALYs.

Conclusions and relevance: Degree of representation in CDSR is partly correlated with DALY metrics. The number of published reviews/protocols was well matched with disability metrics for 5 of the 15 studied skin diseases, while 3 skin diseases were overrepresented, and 7 were underrepresented. Our results provide high-quality and transparent data to inform future prioritization decisions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cost of Illness*
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Humans
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years*
  • Review Literature as Topic*
  • Skin Diseases / epidemiology*