ATLANTA -- Women are five times as likely as men to die from lupus, an immune system disease that causes crippling joint pain, scientists said.
A 20-year study also found that blacks are three times as likely as whites to die from the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Lupus turns the body's immune defense system against its own healthy tissues, in some cases attacking the kidneys and other vital organs. Many people afflicted also develop severe arthritis.
The CDC found 88 lupus deaths for every 10 million women in 1998, compared with 15 deaths for every 10 million men, said CDC lupus expert Dr. Charles Helmick.
That ratio was fairly steady throughout the 20-year study, he said.
Health officials have long known lupus strikes women, particularly women of childbearing age, more often than men. Lupus' symptoms can be treated with steroids and chemotherapy, but there is no cure.