Medical Difference Between Races

Whether your Black, White, Asian or Native American, we are virtually identical genetically.

Yet just recently, we heard an experimental AIDS vaccine seems to have dramatically different effectiveness in blacks and Asians. So there are medically important differences between races. And for people of mixed race, it's an even more complicated issue.

In the 2000 census, nearly seven million people reported being of at least two races, and that includes some pretty familiar faces: Derek Jeter, Halle Berry, and of course, Tiger Woods.

We are a melting pot. But genetically decoding the human genome has told us we're also 99.9 percent alike, actually identical. But in that tenth of a percent difference lies the rub.

So health wise, what does it mean to be multiracial?

Doctors say the more diverse you are, the more diverse your genes are and the better it is for your health.

When a multiracial patient is assumed to be of one race, important medical predisposition can go ignored.

While some people say race is a social construct with no basis in genetics, it's also clear certain diseases track along racial and ethnic lines. Hypertension in blacks, diabetes in Hispanics, and greater incidence of prostate cancer in black men and breast cancer in black women.

Some physicians admit they ignore asking patients their racial and ethnic backgrounds due to fear of being labeled racist or prejudice for asking those questions.

But clearly, there are some advantages to understanding everything about the patient and not just the disease they're getting treated for.

Being multiracial can also present challenges when it comes to organ and tissue transplants. Finding a good match can be difficult because of the unique combination of tissue markers.