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Ethnic Variation as a Key to the Biology of Human Disease

Mark D. Shriver, PhD
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Allegheny University of the Health Sciences; Pittsburgh, PA 15212 Requests for Reprints: Mark D. Shriver, PhD, Department of Human Genetics, Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, 320 East North Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians

Ann Intern Med. 1997;127(5):401-403. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-127-5-199709010-00011
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Although it is well established that all humans are members of the same species, obvious physical differences exist among human populations (such as differences in hair color and texture, skin color, facial features, and stature). Some less apparent, but clinically more important, ethnic differences also exist. For example, the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes is greater among Native Americans and Hispanic persons in the United States than in the general U.S. population, and hypertension is more common among black persons in the United States. Ethnic differences in the prevalence of complex diseases are probably related to both environmental and genetic differences. Observations of physiologic variation or differences in the prevalence of disease among ethnic groups can be important keys to understanding the causes of complex genetic diseases.

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