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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2008 Oct;122(4):820-827.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2008.07.044.

Differences in allergic sensitization by self-reported race and genetic ancestry.

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  • 1Department of Biostatistics and Research Epidemiology, Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, MI 48202, USA.



Many allergic conditions occur more frequently in African American patients when compared with white patients; however, it is not known whether this represents genetic predisposition or disparate environmental exposures.


We sought to assess the relationship of self-reported race and genetic ancestry to allergic sensitization.


We included 601 women enrolled in a population-based cohort study whose self-reported race was African American or white. Genetic ancestry was estimated by using markers that differentiate West African and European ancestry. We assessed the relationship between allergic sensitization (defined as > or =1 allergen-specific IgE results) and both self-reported race and genetic ancestry. Regression models adjusted for sociodemographic variables, environmental exposures, and location of residence.


The average proportion of West African ancestry in African American participants was 0.69, whereas the mean proportion of European ancestry in white participants was 0.79. Self-reported African American race was associated with allergic sensitization when compared with those who reported being white (adjusted odds ratio, 2.19; 95% CI, 1.22-3.93), even after adjusting for other variables. Genetic ancestry was not significantly associated with allergic sensitization after accounting for location of residence (adjusted odds ratio, 2.09 for urban vs suburban residence; 95% CI, 1.32-3.31).


Self-reported race and location of residence appeared to be more important predictors of allergic sensitization when compared with genetic ancestry, suggesting that the disparity in allergic sensitization by race might be primarily a result of environmental factors rather than genetic differences.

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