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Family medicine, 'La Herencia' and breast cancer; understanding the (dis)continuities of predictive genetics in Cuba


  • Gibbon, Sahra


Building on social science research examining the relationship between genetic knowledge, identity and the family this paper takes the cultural context of Cuba as a site for critical ethnographic engagement. The paper makes use of research working with a range of Cuban publics and genetic professionals as part of a collaborative research project exploring the social and cultural context of health beliefs about breast cancer. It illuminates the contrasting ways in which genomic knowledge linked to an increased risk of breast cancer is perceived, communicated, and acted upon. It is argued that the particular meaning and significance of genetic risk linked to breast cancer in this context must be examined in relation to long standing institutional practices relating to public health care provision. The focus on 'the family' in the provision of Cuban health provides a particularly viable foundation for the expansion of what is described as 'community genetics', including the collation of family history details for common complex diseases such as breast cancer. Nevertheless specific public perceptions of risk related to breast cancer and the difficulties of discussing a diagnosis of cancer openly in the family point to the very specific challenges for the translation and application of predictive interventions in Cuba. In summary the dynamic interrelationship between public health, perceptions of risk or health beliefs about the causes of the disease and attitudes towards cancer diagnosis within the family point to both continuities and discontinuities in the way that genomic interventions linked to breast cancer are unfolding as part of a dynamic yet still ostensibly socialist project of health care in Cuba.

Suggested Citation

  • Gibbon, Sahra, 2011. "Family medicine, 'La Herencia' and breast cancer; understanding the (dis)continuities of predictive genetics in Cuba," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(11), pages 1784-1792, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:72:y:2011:i:11:p:1784-1792

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