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September 13, 1985

Colors, Races, Languages, and Diseases

Author Affiliations

University Hospital Tampere, Finland

JAMA. 1985;254(10):1310. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360100058009

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To the Editor.—  In the medical literature, particularly that of North America, patients who are subjects of case reports are usually defined first by age, then by sex, and then often by color of skin or other ethnic characteristic. These mentions of race or ethnic group are unpleasant and probably an irritant for many readers.In 313 brief or case reports published recently in five American journals (Surgery, American Journal of Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Journal of Pediatrics, and Annals of Internal Medicine), the word "black" or "white" was specified in 132 cases (42%) and an ethnic characteristic mentioned in 20 cases (6%). In none of these cases was there an apparent relation between the disease described and the patient's race.In these conditions, a question comes immediately to mind—is it necessary or useful to mention the color of skin if the patient has a chest injury or a venereal