Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Race and genetic medicine

The importance of ethnic differences in genetic medicine:

Scientists have repeatedly said there is no genetic basis for race — no distinguishing Asian, white or black gene.

Why, then, do groups show genetic differences?

The reason, scientists say, lies in the long periods of geographic isolation that mark much of human history.

Until relatively recently, groups of people lived far apart. That isolation encouraged certain genetic traits, not just external traits such as a particular skin color, but also internal traits, like cellular function. Now, genetic medicine is revealing just how much these internal traits can vary from group to group.

African-American women, for example, are known to suffer from more aggressive breast cancers. Doctors hope to reveal if these women have unique gene features.

"I really want to compare Africans, African-Americans and mixed-race women and see if there is a genetic profile," said Dr. Denise Johnson, a breast cancer specialist at Stanford University Medical Center. "We didn't have the tools before, but now we do."

In the news:

Earlier cancer tests urged for blacks

Around the Blogosphere:

Colon Cancer is a Socially Constructed Disease

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