It's a grim statistic: African Americans are five times as likely as whites to suffer from kidney disease severe enough to require dialysis or transplantation. Are the kidneys of blacks that much more prone to disease? In fact, they're not, according to a report by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco VA Medical Center. Their study shows there is no difference between the two groups in the rates of early kidney disease. Yet blacks are far more likely to progress to the severe stage of the disease. One possible explanation, say the researchers, is that whites get better health care. Other possibilities include an unidentified genetic component and the fact that two related risk factors--complications from diabetes and hypertension--are also more prevalent among blacks. The message for African Americans--and their doctors--is that mild kidney disease should be treated aggressively, before it becomes a life-threatening illness.
By David Bjerklie