Patients with severe psoriasis appear to have an increased risk of death compared with patients without the skin condition, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Dermatology.

For the study, Dr. Joel Gelfand and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia analyzed records from a database of patients who visited general practitioners in the United Kingdom between 1987 and 2002.

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Researchers identified 133,568 patients with mild psoriasis but no history of treatment for the condition, and 3,951 patients with severe psoriasis who received medications or other therapies. The patients were with control groups who did not have psoriasis.

During the study period, patients with severe psoriasis were 50 percent more likely to die earlier than patients who did not have psoriasis (21.3 deaths per 1,000 individuals per year versus 12 deaths per 1,000 individuals per year).

Researchers found no link between mild psoriasis and an increased risk of death. Men with severe psoriasis died an average of 3.5 years younger than men without it, while women with severe psoriasis died 4.4 years earlier than women without psoriasis.

Psoriasis is an inflammatory disorder that affects the skin and joints, according to the article in Archives of Dermatology, which is published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. The condition has been associated with various other factors, including smoking, alcohol use and diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

Researchers said further study is needed to determine if the increased risk of death is due to psoriasis or the result of other behaviors and conditions associated with the condition.

In the meantime, the authors wrote, "patients with severe psoriasis should receive comprehensive health assessments to enhance preventive health practices, improve overall health and decrease the risk of mortality."