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August 2003

Epidemiology, Ethnicity, Race, and Risk

Arch Ophthalmol. 2003;121(8):1194. doi:10.1001/archopht.121.8.1194

WHEN id A MANN1 compiled her classic monograph, she sought to describe geoethnic variations in ocular disease, in part to recognize differing medical needs but also to stimulate interest in their underlying causality.

When we designed the Baltimore Eye Survey, 2,3 we selected equal numbers of black and white subjects to identify racial variations in the occurrence of ocular disorders, particularly primary open-angle glaucoma(POAG). We anticipated and found a higher risk of POAG among black subjects, who experienced an earlier onset and greater prevalence at every age. Unstated was a belief that the genetic makeup of African Americans predisposed them to POAG the same way they are at a greater risk for sickle cell disease or individuals of Jewish ancestry are more likely to develop Tay-Sachs disease or other glycogen storage diseases (although the genetic basis of POAG is more complex than for these rarer, single-gene traits).

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