Ashkenazi Jews and breast cancer: The consequences of linking ethnic identity to genetic disease

Sherry I. Brandt-Rauf, Victoria H. Raveis, Nathan F. Drummond, Jill A. Conte, Sheila M. Rothman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

We explored the advantages and disadvantages of using ethnic categories in genetic research. With the discovery that certain breast cancer gene mutations appeared to be more prevalent in Ashkenazi Jews, breast cancer researchers moved their focus from high-risk families to ethnicity. The concept of Ashkenazi Jews as genetically unique, a legacy of Tay-Sachs disease research and a particular reading of history, shaped this new approach even as methodological imprecision and new genetic and historical research challenged it. Our findings cast doubt on the accuracy and desirability of linking ethnic groups to genetic disease. Such linkages exaggerate genetic differences among ethnic groups and lead to unequal access to testing and therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1979-1988
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Volume96
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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