Researchers from the Hopkins Centre for Health Disparities Solutions and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine showed that when African Americans and whites live in similar environments and have similar incomes, their diabetes rates are similar.
In recent decades the United States has seen a sharp increase in diabetes prevalence, with African Americans having a considerably higher occurrence of type 2 diabetes and other related complications compared to whites.
"While we often hear media reports of genes that account for race differences in health outcomes, genes are but one of many factors that lead to the major health conditions that account for most deaths in the United States," said Dr Thomas LaVeist, director of the Hopkins Centre for Health Disparities Solutions and lead author of the study.
"I don't mean to suggest that genetics play no role in race differences in health, but before we can conclude that health disparities are mainly a matter of genetics we need to first identify a gene, polymorphism or gene mutation that exists in one race group and not others.
"And when that gene is found we need to then demonstrate that that gene is also associated with diabetes," LaVeist added.
The study's authors said their findings support the need for future health disparities research and creative approaches to examining health disparities within samples that account for socioeconomic and social environmental factors.
The study appears in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.