The information derived from the Human Genome Project, an international effort to decode the information embedded in the human genome, will revolutionize the practice of medicine in the 21st century by providing the tools to determine the hereditary component of virtually all diseases. This will lead to improved approaches to predict increased risk, provide early detection, and promote more effective treatment strategies. To be ultimately successful, these improvements in research and health care must reach everyone. This success will depend on participation from a broad spectrum of the population. such as scientists, clinicians, research participants, and active discussants, in deliberations of ethics and public policy. The Human Genome Project has helped to inform us about how remarkably similar all human beings are--99.9% at the DNA level. Those who wish to draw precise racial boundaries around certain groups will not be able to use science as a legitimate justification. However, studying the 0.1% of human genetic variations, particularly the distribution of single nucleotide polymorphisms, between affected and nonaffected individuals will significantly inform biomedical researchers about the genetic contributions to complex diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and mental illness. We must all work together to ensure that the risks of such research are considered carefully and that the medical benefits are made available to all.
Copyright 2001 American Cancer Society.