Cancer geneticists tackle troubling ethnic bias in studies

most studies and genetic databases are populated mainly by data from people of European descent. This knowledge gap exacerbates disparities in cancer incidence and outcomes around the world. In the United States, for example, African American men are about twice as likely as white men to die of prostate cancer.

But researchers who study these inequities say they are encouraged by renewed interest in closing the data gap from their colleagues and funders, including the US government. The issue was unusually prominent at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) this month in Atlanta, Georgia — one of the world’s biggest gatherings of cancer researchers.

“It’s a historical year for us working in cancer health disparities,” says Laura Fejerman, a geneticist at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies breast cancer in Latina women. “We’ve been trying to show researchers who don’t work on health disparities that this is a really important issue.”