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Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog

Jan 6, 2011 · Leave a Reply

Arthritis and Epidemiology

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One out of every dozen American women will contract a rheumatic disease in her lifetime. One in 12.

That's the first time a lifetime risk of these diseases has been determined -- and it's higher than many had thought. So says Cynthia Crowson and the other authors of a research paper published online in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism. Previous estimates of disease risk in this area -- the most prominent condition is rheumatoid arthritis -- are based on prevalence or incidence. [See the news release and video comments]

Crowson says it's hard to figure lifetime risk because you need a lot of data from a population over time. That's just what this team had in the files of the Rochester Epidemiology Project.  Not heard of it? It's been around for 40 years and has been funded by the National Institutes of Health all that time. It is not a database, but an ongoing collaboration among the medical providers in Olmsted County Minnesota. Because it exists, we have a clearer picture of disease development  in this country. According to its Website, "This collaboration and sharing of medical information makes Olmsted County one of the few places in the United States, and one of the few places in the world, where "population-based" research can be accomplished." It's been called one of the best kept non-secrets of medical research. But because this resource exists, national disease-based societies have accurate estimates to rely on, as do national decision makers and experts planning future research. It's kind of sad that the average person doesn't even know what epidemiology is (most think it's the study of skin), but it provides knowledge, guidance and insight for those trying to keep us healthy.

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