Asking the right questions: Views on genetic variation research among black and white research participants

Jada Bussey-Jones, Gail Henderson, Joanne Garrett, Mairead Moloney, Connie Blumenthal, Giselle Corbie-Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Genetic variation research (GVR) may raise concerns about misuse of information and discrimination. Seemingly contradictory positive views about GVR have also been reported. Objective: To dissect this inconsistency, our objectives were to: (1) explore open-ended views of GVR and (2) quantify views of and willingness to participate in GVR by race. Design: Cross-sectional study. Participants: 801 African-American and white prior participants in a case-control genetic epidemiology study of colon cancer risks (NCCCS). Measures: Qualitative measures evaluated responses to questions about good and bad things about GVR. Quantitative measures evaluated positive and negative perceptions, perceptions of discrimination, and likelihood of future participation by race. Results: Open-ended queries about GVR resulted in few "negative" responses. In closed-ended questions, however, African Americans were more likely to feel that such research would: result in higher insurance (41% vs. 30%, p∈=∈0.008), not benefit minorities (29% vs. 14%, p=<0.001), reinforce racism (32% vs. 20%, p∈=∈0.002), and use minorities as guinea pigs (27% vs. 6%, p∈<∈0.001). Overall, after adjustment for potential confounding factors, African-American race remained inversely associated with feeling "very positive" about GVR (46% vs. 57%, p∈=∈0.035). In contrast, African Americans were as likely as whites to express willingness to participate in future GVR studies (46%). Conclusions: Open-ended questions about GVR were unlikely to spontaneously generate "negative" responses. In contrast, when presented specific examples of potentially negative implications, more respondents agreed, and minorities were more likely to express concerns. This suggests that while participants appear generally positive about GVR, their inability to articulate views regarding these complex concepts may require that researchers engage lay audiences, ensure accurate understanding, and provide them with language to express concerns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-304
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements: This work was supported by the NIH-NHGRI grant 1-R01-HG002830. This project was also supported by grant no. P50HG004488 from the National Human Genome Research Institute.


  • Discrimination
  • Genetic variation research
  • Response evaluation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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