SICKLE CELL DISEASE - A BLACK MAN'S DISEASE?
For a long time, I believed that sickle cell disease was the disease the black man suffered from while the caucasians/Europeans faced things like cancer; but as I became more knowledgeable on the topic of sickle cell, I quickly realized that my initial position on the disease being one that only African or black people suffered from was not entirely accurate. Having only ever witnessed sickle cell afflict black people, it never occured to me that Indians, Asians and Middle Eastern people also suffered from it and because I usually only view things as either being black or white, to me, if your skin color was not black then that made you white in my book. A rather myopic way of viewing life I know, but like I said, now that I know so much more about SCD (thanks in no small part to this blog and other material online), I clearly know better.
I know now at this point that sickle cell is found more frequently in people of Middle Eastern, Indian, Mediterranean and African heritage because these areas are most prone to malaria. In other words, the gene variant for sickle cell disease is related to malaria and not skin color. So, the answer to my question is No! Sickle cell is not just a black man's disease but because Africa is typically synonymous with malaria and malaria is caused by a parasite that infects the red blood cells to reproduce within them, for people who live in these areas, sickle cell disease is a disadvantage. One in 500 African American births will have this condition occur and more than 2 million Ameicans carry the sickle cell trait.
While doing my research on this topic today, I came across a rather interesting article here, http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp204-us14/2014/07/08/sickle-cell-anemia-amongst-african-american/ and it states: ".... I believe that race, genetics and health have a lot in common. All three of these things have an influence on our risk that we will acquire a specific disease or health condition". The article goes on to say " There is a lot of evidence of health inequalities among racially defined groups in many societies.....some diseases are more common in one race than another due to genetics.." The article though short, I found poignant to my initial assertion that SCD is more than less a black man's disease simply due to genetic factors. I recommend you read the article as I found it to be straight forward and to the point.
Obviously, Africans and African Americans now marry outside of their race and so this inevitably means that children born to one African/African American parent and one of another race still run the risk of having sickle cell anemia or the sickle cell trait thus making the disease one that now affects any race. As I believe and as medicine tells us, SCD does not have to be an automatic death sentence; with the appropriate care and medication, people with the disease can go on to live full, rich and fulfilling lives.
Am I the only one who thought at one point that sickle cell anemia was an "African disease" alone? When did you start to know better? I'm curious to now so please share if you would in the comments below.
Thank you for your time as always and please know that I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read my blogs and do not take it for granted that you do when there are so many other things you could be doing.