The relationships between health, genetics, and race are complicated for many reasons. As stated in lecture, one of the largest debates and controversies regarding these three topics is how someone’s race is determined. Scientifically, race cannot be determined by genetics; race is a concept that an individual identifies with based on social and cultural environment. Interestingly enough however, people who identify with a certain race may be more susceptible to evolutionary genetic mutations or certain diseases based on the environment and social activities that the race lives in/ participates in. An example is in West Africa, where malaria is very high in prevalence. Living in West Africa increases a persons risk of getting malaria. However, over evolutionary time, the people of West Africa have developed a genetic way to fight off the mosquito disease. Many West African’s have at least one allele for the sickle cell disease. If someone is born as a carry of sickle cell disease, that is they have one sickle allele and one wild type allele, only half of that person’s hemoglobin will be sickle in nature. With only half their hemoglobin sickle, that person does not feel the full effects of the sickle cell disease, as well as, the parasite injected from the mosquito to cause malaria cannot be held in the body compared to someone with normal alleles because the parasite cannot spread through sickle hemoglobin. As shown, although race is determined by social and ecological factors, and not genetics solely, evolutionarily, living in a place can either increase or decrease a population’s risk of getting certain diseases, in turn, affecting the overall health of the race in that population.
It was very difficult to find an illness or disease more prevalent in white women than any other population. However, I did find that breast cancer is more prevalent in white women than any other race. I hypothesize that the increased risk for breast cancer has a lot to do with social factors. First off, white women have fairer skin, and therefore, are more susceptible to sun burn and UV damage. Socially, it is not uncommon to find white women, as I myself identify with, sun bathing or tanning to decrease or pale complexions and increase our skin’s dark complexions. By exposing ourselves to more sun, we put ourselves at risk for UV damage, scientifically proven to cause cancer cells to form.
CDC. Accessed July 9, 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/statistics/race.htm.