Taiwan key to solving racial differences in medical research: scholar
Taipei, Jan. 24 (CNA) An associate professor at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, has expressed hope to set up a research center in collaboration with National Taiwan University focusing on Asians, as he considers Taiwan as the key to solving certain racial differences in medical research.
David C. Chang (張智威), who emigrated from Taiwan to the United States at a young age and is now an associate professor of surgery at the hospital, made the comments at the CommonWealth Economic Forum held last week in Taipei.
In his speech, Chang said that medical research in the past 200 years has been led by Europe and the United States. The conclusions they reach, however, may not be applicable to Asians, as diseases can manifest differently in different races and these studies often do not include many Asian subjects, he said.
For instance, a recommendation put forth by the U.S health authorities in 2016 did not recommend that women under the age of 50 should start screenings for breast cancer, whereas doctors in Taiwan and Mexico have suggested that screenings should start at 40, Chang said.
Curious about the difference, Chang said he began reviewing data and found that breast cancer patients of Hispanic, African and Asian ethnicity were most often diagnosed in their 40s.
For white people, however, the disease does not often occur until patients are in their 60s.
In a paper Chang published in the medical journal JAMA Surgery in 2018, he concluded that it is most common for Asian women to be diagnosed with breast cancer when they are between 45 and 50 years old, which is more than 10 years earlier than their white counterparts.
Other examples of racial differences in medicine include varying rates of deep vein thrombosis after surgery, and mortality rates among older people after falls, he said.
In Chang's view, Taiwan is the key to solving these racial differences, as the country is democratic and has a racially diverse population, as well as good healthcare and information technology.
He encouraged Taiwanese scholars to use science to tell stories about Taiwan and to research the health benefits of the food and activities people enjoy here, such as tea and tai chi.
Chang said he hoped to recruit scholars from Harvard University to set up a medical research center focusing on Asians in collaboration with National Taiwan University, with the aim of developing precision medicine unique to Asians.
With research, Taiwanese doctors could not only help Taiwanese people, but could also help patients across Asia and the world, he said.
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