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Says Racial Element in Disease Exaggerated

July 3, 1929
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Sir Humphrey D.Rolleston, President of the Royal College of Physicians and Consulting Physician to the London Jewish Hospital, opening a symposium on “Diseases of the Jews,” held at the London Jewish Hospital by the Medical Society of the hospital, said, after reviewing a number of diseases which were at one time considered peculiar to Jews, that they should be on their guard against the error of exaggerating the racial element in disease, in contradistinction to the environmental influence. The view to take about these diseases, so far as Jews were concerned, was that they were no more common to Jews than to non-Jews, but that they appeared at an earlier age in Jews and were more severe. In regard to obesity and diabetes, there was some evidence to show that there was impaired metabolism in Jews. Jews showed a considerable resistance to tuberculosis and there was a smaller number of fatal cases among Jews than non-Jews. There was no specific skin disease peculiar to Jews.

Dr. Parkes-Weber, speaking on the arterial disease, thrombo angiitius obliterans, believed at one time to be peculiar to Jews, said that this disease was not exclusively common to Jews. The poorer Chinese and Japanese suffered from it, but its incidence was higher among the poorer Jewish elements in Europe. He Believed there was a constitutional basis on which the disease developed in Jewish families, and this might be due to the hardship in early life and the imperfect diet of Jewish children which had occurred in the past in Eastern Europe.

Dr. Brander, the superintendent of the Colney Hatch Mental Hospital, said that many mental diseases occurred equally in Jews as well as non-Jews. In Jews, however, mental disease occurred earlier when it manifested itself.

Dr. Goodman Levy, Dr. J. Burnford, Dr. A. H. Levy and Dr. M. Sourasky, took part in the symposium. Dr. Burnford said that one should hesitate before condemning Jewry in general in regard to these diseases. One heard much about diseases common to Jews from persons whose experience had been only with East End Hospitals. In drawing a conclusion as to whether these diseases were common to Jews, they must take into consideration the changing environmental conditions of Jews the world over, and in this connection there was a need for universal statistics.

Dr. A. H. Levy said that the eye disease, trachoma, was not specifically a Jewish disease as it was common to both Jews and non-Jews. Dr. M. Sourasky said that so far as cancer was concerned there were no specific cancer conditions among Jews.

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