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.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health