The inclusion of racial and ethnic minorities in cancer prevention studies is a scientific, logistic, cultural, and ethical issue. A great deal has yet to be learned about cancer in these populations: Why are some racial and ethnic minorities more likely to get certain cancers, be diagnosed at later stages, and die of their disease? If it is true that they respond differently to medications and treatment modalities, why does that occur? Why does their participation in many clinical studies remain so low? For a number of reasons, the inclusion of racial and ethnic minorities in cancer research trials is an important concern for researchers. There are a growing number of reports of robust relationships between race/ethnicity and health outcomes (Kato 1996; Patrinos 2004). We will argue that the concept of ethnicity is the more useful term for understanding health than are concepts such as race, or even concepts of culture, because it has, since the origins of the term, focused on the role of traditions while acknowledging that genetics are involved. Ethnicity is best understood when we adopt the interactionist view that specifies that both genes and environmental factors interact in human development and play a role in health and illness. By taking an interactionist view, more successful cancer prevention interventions and research trials might be developed.
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