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Why are some genetic conditions more common in particular ethnic groups?

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Some genetic disorders are more likely to occur among people who trace their ancestry to a particular geographic area. People in an ethnic group often share certain versions of their genes, which have been passed down from common ancestors. If one of these shared genes contains a disease-causing mutation, a particular genetic disorder may be more frequently seen in the group.

Examples of genetic conditions that are more common in particular ethnic groups are sickle cell anemia, which is more common in people of African, African-American, or Mediterranean heritage; and Tay-Sachs disease, which is more likely to occur among people of Ashkenazi (eastern and central European) Jewish or French Canadian ancestry. It is important to note, however, that these disorders can occur in any ethnic group.

For more information about genetic disorders that are more common in certain groups:

The National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics offers Some Frequently Asked Questions and Answers About Race, Genetics, and HealthcareThis link leads to a site outside Genetics Home Reference..

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Published: February 11, 2013