Cystic Fibrosis- Caucasian Americans

Cystic Fibrosis is a disease of the mucus glands. It commonly
has a cumulative effect on numerous body systems due to the importance of lubrication
throughout the body. Damage to the respiratory system and chronic digestive
problems are the main concerns with the disease. Essentially, individuals with
cystic fibrosis produce an abnormally viscous and sticky mucus.  This abnormal mucus blocks airways, distribution of key enzymes and hormones, and decreases pancreatic function. Another common result of Cystic Fibrosis is infertility in males. The disease
occurs in approximately 1 in every 2,500 white people. African Americans have a
less common incidence of only 1 in approximately every 15,000-17,000
individuals. In order to inherit the disease, an individual must inherit two
recessive genes, one from each parent. Often, both parents of offspring with
Cystic Fibrosis will only carry one recessive gene and therefore not express
the condition. As to why Cystic Fibrosis is prevalent in Caucasians: I believe
it is along the same lines of Sickle Cell in African Americans. Carrying the
recessive gene for Cystic Fibrosis probably protected Caucasians, primarily of European descent, from another disease or condition. I read in a non-scholarly article
that diarrheal diseases were rampant in Western Europe and that this lead to
the evolution and prevalence of the disease. Carrying the recessive gene for
Cystic Fibrosis made individuals immune to a number of diarrheal diseases.

http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/publications/solddc-chapters/cf.pdf

The relationship between race, genetics and health is complex
and difficult to analyze. Race is certainly a social construct and has been
exploited to benefit a hierarchical system ever since it came into existence. It
has no relevance in treating disease. Unless you are talking about distribution
of disease, in which it can then be useful. Certain racial groups are more
likely to have specific diseases, but they are not due to skin color which is
essentially what determines race. Skin color was determined geographically.
Your proximity to the equator and exposure different levels of sunlight determined
your complexion. Genetics, which is a result of inheritance, can predispose you
to certain health issues and disorders.  For example, the Pima Indians lived in an environment in which food was often scarce.  As a result, they evolved
to process sugars and store fats at a higher rate. This obviously was very useful
in terms of survival in the past.  In today’s world, the mutation still persists but their environment has changed. The result of the mutation has become a high prevalence of Type II diabetes and obesity. In conclusion, genetics is a more valid determinant in the study of health.

Sources: http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/publications/solddc-chapters/cf.pdf

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/cystic-fibrosis

2 thoughts on “Cystic Fibrosis- Caucasian Americans

  1. I do agree that genetics plays a greater role in health than does race. However, I feel as though race, in the aspect of how others treat someone of a specific social race, also makes a large difference in health. As seen in the clips we were to watch this week, “Unnatural Causes”, the things people go through at the hands of others really does affect their overall health. After years of being turned down, sent away, looked down upon, and thought ill of, Mexican immigrants, African Americans, and other races of social recognition experience greater health risks than those of us who do not experience these racist actions. The extreme stress of dealing with racism on a daily basis creates serious issues and decreases good health overtime.

    When used in clinical studies I do think racial categories are important. However, I believe it would be even more useful to use heredity instead of race. As more and more people reproduce with persons of other social races these racial lines become more and more blurry. Also, since genetics plays a greater role in determining health, heredity would be more sufficiently used in health studies.

  2. I agree that race itself is a social construct and bears little importance when examining or treating a disease. Disparities of certain diseases between racial groups, though, bring up important questions. When looking at these disparities, I think it’s important to first understand if genetic predisposition, is a contributing factor. While certain genes can be more prevalent in particular races, though, not all people of that race may have inherited that gene. Likewise, considering the lifestyle and socioeconomic status of the affected racial group can shed light on the development of a disease, but these demographics only apply to the race at large, not actual individuals. As you said, society has categorized people into races by the color of their skin, but this concept of race does not always determine the lifestyle, beliefs, intelligence, or even genetics of a person.

    I watched the video “When the Bough Breaks” that uncovers how the chronic stress African American women experience because of racism increases their chance of giving birth to premature babies. While clinical studies of situations like this can identify and mitigate the causes of racial disparities in medical conditions, I think that unless research studies can link the abstract idea of race to concrete consequences, they would find more potential in focusing on genetics, lifestyle, age, and gender as determinants of disease risk.

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