Does Your Race Dictate Your Susceptibility To Cancer?

Genetics plays a role in pretty much every characteristic of your body. It doesn’t affect only the obvious ones like height and eye color, but it also defines your susceptibility to mental illness, infectious disease, and personality traits. Despite this being a known fact, people often downplay or downright ignore the role of genetics when it comes to situations society finds uncomfortable. For example, people tend to overlook the role of genetics when it comes to biological differences. 

Disparity Between The Races

The susceptibility for certain diseases is often blamed on social factors, such as discrimination, rather than biological ones. However, genetics play a crucial role in disease outcomes just as much as social and environmental factors (such as adequate access to healthcare, lifestyle choices, and socioeconomic conditions). A study reported in Trends in Cancer highlights this point. It demonstrates that African Americans have a higher chance of developing cancer and dying from it. 

The researchers presented various lines of evidence to support their case. For instance, Hispanic Americans have better outcomes even though they share many of the same socioeconomic conditions as black Americans. Furthermore, when they share the same access to healthcare, socioeconomic conditions, and lifestyle, black Americans are still more likely to be diagnosed with and die from cancer than whites. 

Differences In Immune Response 

The incidence of prostate cancer among black and white men with five-year survival rates provide a particularly compelling argument. Today, these two groups have about the same outcome (almost 100 percent survival five years after diagnosis). However, black men have a higher chance of getting the disease in the first place. This strongly suggests that, for prostate cancer at least, that there is something else causing the incidence rate of cancer other than healthcare. 

Even with various factors controlled, the mortality rate among blacks are still higher than whites This indicates that genetics influences the disparity. Authors of the study propose that alleles or gene variants linked to chronic inflammation and obesity are to blame. Nearly 14 to 20 percent of cancer deaths may be associated with being overweight. Obesity is also more common among African-American than among whites. And while there are more Hispanics than whites that are obese, they are not as prone to obesity-related cancers. This might be due to dietary and genetic factors

Besides, inflammation and infections cause about 15 to 20 percent of cancers. Once again, blacks have higher levels of pro-inflammatory proteins in their blood compared to other races. Their innate immune systems, which are genetically different from other races, also play a role in developing diseases.


Contrary to popular wisdom, the scientists argue that disparities in cancer incidence and mortality rates among the races may be due to a strong biological component rather than a lifestyle or socioeconomic matter. Of course, acknowledging the role that genetics play in cancer outcomes is not an excuse to dismiss the effect of the environment on one’s health. Nevertheless, to beat cancer, we must understand all of its possible causes.


Click here for our blog Disclaimer.