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Fam Cancer. 2004;3(3-4):193-9.

The Jewish people: their ethnic history, genetic disorders and specific cancer susceptibility.

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Department of Medical Genetics, Rabin Medical Center, Beilinson Campus, Petach Tikva, Israel.


The Jews are an ancient and unique group of people linked by language, religion and customs in spite of their major geographical shifts, expulsions, forced conversions and massacres throughout their entire history. As a result of these historical events that led to repeated migration, the Jewish people became dispersed into various ethnic sub-groups. Between these ethnic groups exists heterogeneity, as well as some similarities, to the populations amongst whom they lived. Rare genetic diseases have been reported to be prevalent among the different groups of Jews, which for the most part can be explained by random genetic drift together with intra-familial marriages. In this publication, we will briefly discuss the origin of the various ethnic groups and some of the genetic diseases commonly found in them, with emphasis on the Ashkenazim, their prevalent genetic diseases and cancer susceptibility.

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