Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is cystic fibrosis more common in women of certain ethnicities?"
Hi. I'm a 29 year old woman. I'd like to know more about cystic fibrosis. Is it affected by ethnicity at all?
Cystic fibrosis is a genetically inherited disease of the lungs, causing sticky buildup of mucus in the lungs and predisposing affected individuals to multiple respiratory infections and chronic lung disease. It also affects other organs of the body, most notably the pancreas, which can provoke diabetes and require taking nutritional supplements to digest food. It almost always results in infertility in men. Cystic fibrosis is heritable in an autosomal recessive pattern, which means that people can be carriers of the CF gene without knowing it. In order to have a child with cystic fibrosis, both parents must be carriers of the gene; if both parents are carriers, the likelihood of having a child with the disease are approximately one in four. As you have brought up, cystic fibrosis is more common in certain ethnic groups than in others. Speaking of the American population, it is most common in Caucasian individuals, with most estimates of around 1 in 25 Caucasians Americans being carriers. It is less common (by about half) in Hispanic Americans, even less common in African Americans, and least common (about 1 in 90 or so) in Asian Americans. If you are concerned about the possibility of having a child with cystic fibrosis, genetic tests are available to determine if you are a carrier. These can often be arranged as part of prenatal care with your OB/GYN, or by referral to a geneticist by your primary care doctor.