A systematic review of the methods used to assess race and racial disparities in uterine fibroid research
Context: Black women are reported to have a higher prevalence of uterine fibroids, and a threefold higher incidence rate and relative risk for clinical uterine fibroid development as compared to women of other races. Uterine fibroid research has reported that black women experience greater uterine fibroid morbidity and disproportionate uterine fibroid disease burden. With increased interest in understanding uterine fibroid development, and race being a critical component of uterine fibroid assessment, it is imperative that the methods used to determine the race of research participants is defined and the operational definition of the use of race as a variable is reported for methodological guidance, and to enable the research community to compare statistical data and replicate studies.
Objectives: To systematically review and evaluate the methods used to assess race and racial disparities in uterine fibroid research.
Data Sources: Databases searched for this review include: OVID Medline, NML PubMed, Ebscohost Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Plus with Full Text, and Elsevier Scopus.
Review Methods: Articles published in English were retrieved from data sources between January 2011 and March 2011. Broad search terms, uterine fibroids and race, were employed to retrieve a comprehensive list of citations for review screening. The initial database yield included 947 articles, after duplicate extraction 485 articles remained. In addition, 771 bibliographic citations were reviewed to identify additional articles not found through the primary database search, of which 17 new articles were included. In the first screening, 502 titles and abstracts were screened against eligibility questions to determine citations of exclusion and to retrieve full text articles for review. In the second screening, 197 full texted articles were screened against eligibility questions to determine whether or not they met full inclusion/exclusion criteria.
Results: 100 articles met inclusion criteria and were used in the results of this systematic review. The evidence suggested that black women have a higher prevalence of uterine fibroids when compared to white women. None of the 14 studies reporting data on prevalence reported an operational definition or conceptual framework for the use of race. There were a limited number of studies reporting on the prevalence of risk factors among racial subgroups. Of the 3 studies, 2 studies reported prevalence of risk factors lower for black women than other races, which was contrary to hypothesis. And, of the three studies reporting on prevalence of risk factors among racial subgroups, none of them reported a conceptual framework for the use of race.
Conclusion: In the 100 uterine fibroid studies included in this review over half, 66%, reported a specific objective to assess and recruit study participants based upon their race and/or ethnicity, but most, 51%, failed to report a method of determining the actual race of the participants, and far fewer, 4% (only four South American studies), reported a conceptual framework and/or operational definition of race as a variable. However, most, 95%, of all studies reported race-based health outcomes. The inadequate methodological guidance on the use of race in uterine fibroid studies, purporting to assess race and racial disparities, may be a primary reason that uterine fibroid research continues to report racial disparities, but fails to understand the high prevalence and increased exposures among African-American women. A standardized method of assessing race throughout uterine fibroid research would appear to be helpful in elucidating what race is actually measuring, and the risk of exposures for that measurement.