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Am J Hum Genet. Apr 1996; 58(4): 803–811.
PMCID: PMC1914663

Gender difference in apolipoprotein E-associated risk for familial Alzheimer disease: a possible clue to the higher incidence of Alzheimer disease in women.


Late-onset Alzheimer disease (AD) is associated with the apolipoprotein E (APOE)-epsilon4 allele. In late-onset familial AD, women have a significantly higher risk of developing the disease than do men. The aim of this study was to determine whether the gender difference in familial AD is a function of APOE genotype. We studied 58 late-onset familial AD kindreds. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was used to assess genotype-specific distributions of age at onset. Odds ratios were estimated by logistic regression with adjustment for age and by conditional logistic regression with stratification on families. All methods detected a significant gender difference for the epsilon4 heterozygous genotype. In women, epsilon4 heterozygotes had higher risk than those without epsilon4; there was no significant difference between epsilon4 heterozygotes and epsilon4 homozygotes. In men, epsilon4 heterozygotes had lower risk than epsilon4 homozygotes; there was not significant difference between epsilon4 heterozygotes and those without epsilon4. A direct comparison of epsilon4 heterozygous men and women revealed a significant twofold increased risk in women. We confirmed these results in 15 autopsy-confirmed AD kindreds from the National Cell Repository at Indiana University Alzheimer Disease Center. These observations are consistent with the increased incidence of familial AD in women and may be a critical clue to the role of gender in the pathogenesis of AD.

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