For some diseases, ethnicity counts. But researchers have found some cell lines classified as African American are in fact European.

When it comes to health, race can be a double-edged sword.

On one hand, it’s a dismal fact that being in certain ethnic groups is a sentence to poorer health. For example, a 2018 study of nearly 900,000 cases of lung, breast, bowel and prostate cancer found black patients had the lowest survival rates.

Some of that miserable outlook may be socio-economic, including less social support and access to healthcare, and more risk factors such as smoking. But part of the problem is biology.

Race can influence how invasive a cancer is and how well it does with treatment. A February 2019 study, for example, found African American men were more likely to have genes that predict aggressive prostate cancer.

But, and here’s the upside, armed with a person’s ethnicity doctors can get a jump on the problem with targeted screening and treatment. It’s all part of the push for “precision medicine” that, in theory, works better because it is tailored to the individual.

A new study, however, led by Rick Kittles at the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Duarte, California, US, puts something of a spanner in those precision works.

Read the full article at Cosmos magazine here