Author Affiliation: Department of Pediatrics
and Department of Human Genetics, Eccles Institute of Human Genetics, University
of Utah, Salt Lake City.
Race is frequently used by clinicians and biomedical researchers to
make inferences about an individual’s ancestry and to predict whether
an individual carries specific genetic risk factors that influence health.
The extent to which race is useful for making such predictions depends on
how well race corresponds with genetic inferences of ancestry, how frequently
common diseases in different racial groups are influenced by the same vs different
gene variants, and whether such variants have the same effects in different
racial groups. New studies of human genetic variation show that while genetic
ancestry is highly correlated with geographic ancestry, its correlation with
race is modest. Therefore, while data on the correspondence of race, ancestry,
and health-related traits are still limited, particularly in minority populations,
geographic ancestry and explicit genetic information are alternatives to race
that appear to be more accurate predictors of genetic risk factors that influence
health. Making accurate ancestry inferences is crucial because common diseases
and drug responses are sometimes influenced by gene variants that vary in
frequency or differ altogether among racial groups. Thus, operationalizing
alternatives to race for clinicians will be an important step toward providing
more personalized health care.
Bamshad M. Genetic Influences on HealthDoes Race Matter?. JAMA. 2005;294(8):937-946. doi:10.1001/jama.294.8.937