Migrant studies examine the rates of specific diseases in migrating populations. These studies are important in addressing the possibility that observed correlations in ecological studies are owing to genetic factors. Generally, results from migrant studies have so far found that the migrating group takes on the rate of cancer of the new country. Hence genetic factors are excluded as the dominant cause for varying rates of cancer between countries. A good example of this is seen in the Japanese migrant population to the USA. Japan has low rates of cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate, while the rates of these cancers among Japanese migrants to the USA move toward the higher US rates. The increased risk of breast cancer among migrants occurs primarily in later generations, leading investigators to believe that the causal factors operate early in life. Investigators also consider major changes in the rate of disease that occur within a population over time as evidence that non-genetic factors play an integral role in the etiology of cancer. The limitations of migrant studies are similar to those of ecological studies.
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