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Are higher rates of atopic dermatitis among African Americans explained by genetic ancestry?

Published online: July 29, 2019

There are conflicting and limited data on racial/ethnic disparities in atopic dermatitis (AD), especially among adults. Some studies suggest that AD is more common among African Americans in the US, but the sparse amount of data on genetic factors among non-Europeans suggest that filaggrin null mutations (the strongest known risk factor for AD) are less common in populations of African descent. Additional research is needed to understand whether racial/ethnic differences are caused by genetic factors.

In a research study recently published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), Abuabara and colleagues found that AD was about twice as common among African American adults compared with those who self-identified as non-Hispanic white in a large cohort of insured patients from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. However, this difference was not further associated with a continuous measure of genetic ancestry, nor polygenic risk scores for AD risk or skin pigmentation. The authors found similar results for disease control in a validation cohort of children and young adults with AD. The authors’ findings suggest that genetic factors are unlikely to explain the observed differences and that further studies of social and environmental factors are important to understand racial/ethnic disparities in AD.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) is an official scientific journal of the AAAAI, and is the most-cited journal in the field of allergy and clinical immunology.

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