Expanding understanding about African ancestry and prostate cancer risk


A detailed, new genetic analysis of known prostate cancer susceptibility loci appears to have been able to refine our understanding of genetic factors affecting the risk for prostate cancer among African Americans.

Haiman et al. have conducted a study based on genetic analysis of specimens from 3,425 African Americans with prostate cancer and 3,290 African American controls (men with no apparent signal of risk for prostate cancer). In particular, they focused their testing on 49 genetic “risk variants” known to occur in 28 genomic regions in men of European and Asian descent, and they were able to replicate associations (at p ≤ 0.05) for about half of these markers.

They also used a technique known as “fine mapping” to identify nearby genetic markers in many regions that better define associations in African Americans. For example:

  • At the 8q24 locus, they were able to identify nine risk variants (p ≤ 6×10−4) that best capture risk of prostate cancer in African Americans.
  • Many of these risk variants are more common in men of African than European descent.

Markers associated with risk at each locus improved risk modeling in African Americans (per allele odds ratio [OR] = 1.17) by comparison with the alleles reported in earlier study data (OR = 1.08).

This is a highly technical paper, the full text of which is available on line for interested readers. The bottom line is that a better appreciation of inherited risk for prostate cancer in the general population will come — over time — from testing known risk alleles in diverse racial and ethnic groups. The findings from this particular study, and in particular the findings about risk variants at 8q24, also reinforce the importance of this region as a major risk locus for prostate cancer in men of African ancestry.

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