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Dermatologists Turn Focus to Ethnic Skin Conditions

Posted: November 27, 2006

Carlotta Aiken's cheeks are sprinkled with brown spots, just like her grandmother had.

"She lived to be 93," Mrs. Aiken tells Dr. Simon Yoo, who is using a laser to remove the spots, a benign skin condition called dermatosis papulosa nigra.

Mrs. Aiken, a 58-year-old art teacher, is a volunteer in a study at Northwestern University's Center for Ethnic Skin, and she is playing a small part in a growing movement.

At clinics and research centers in Chicago, New York, Washington, Detroit and Miami, dermatologists are developing better treatments for skin problems of people with dark skin. Some skin doctors concentrate their practices on blacks, Hispanics and Asians, people who previously were neglected by drug and cosmetic company research.

"I have African-American patients come to me frustrated that their previous dermatologists didn't understand their hair and scalp disorders and pigmentation problems," said Dr. Diane Jackson-Richards, who specializes in multicultural dermatology at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. "I treat all races of people, but I've seen over the years how I've been sought out by patients of color."