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November 18, 1998

The APOE-∊4 Allele and Alzheimer Disease Among African Americans, Hispanics, and Whites

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1998;280(19):1661-1663. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-280-19-jbk1118

To the Editor.—Dr Tang and colleagues1 may be forgiven for their careless use of the appellative Hispanic, since the US Census Bureau itself has muddled that term to the point of uselessness. However, as defined by the 1990 US Census, the only common characteristic of people of Spanish/Hispanic origin is their language. As recognized in the Editorial2 accompanying the article, the issue of ethnicity is a complicated one but crucial to the interpretation of the results. The ethnic makeup of so-called Hispanics runs such a diverse gamut as to make the term useless for any scientific purpose other than linguistic. On the one hand, European Spaniards are themselves of diverse ethnicity such as Goths, Celts, and Semites. On the other, Latin Americans cover an incredibly wide spectrum of ethnic origins, from the mostly unmixed European populations of Argentina and Uruguay to the 80% to 90% Indian countries such as Bolivia and Paraguay. Central America and the Caribbean offer interesting contrasts: the former countries' populations are about two thirds of Indian descent, while the Spanish-speaking peoples of Cuba and Puerto Rico are approximately 50% black, with essentially no Indian ancestry.

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