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Self reported lactose tolerance data were obtained from families of Caucasian, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian/Part Hawaiian and Japanese ancestral groups in Hawaii and from homeland Korean families. Ethnic differences were found to exist in the proportions of persons reporting themselves to be intolerant to lactose; however, intolerance was comparatively rare and usually mild in all groups. Japanese-Americans and homeland Koreans reported the highest proportions of intolerance. Filipino and Hawaiian/Part Hawaiian individuals reported the least tolerance, followed by Caucasians. Family resemblances in tolerance, while statistically significant, were not substantial. Our data are relatively unsupportive of any major influence of early environment (in terms of milk drinking and the use of other dairy products high in lactose) on lactose tolerance.