Obesity and the Bidirectional Risk of Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases in African Americans: Disparity vs. Ancestry

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Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer often occur in the same individuals, in part due to the shared risk factors such as obesity. Obesity promotes adipose inflammation, which is pathogenically linked to both cardiovascular disease and cancer. Compared with Caucasians, the prevalence of obesity is significantly higher in African Americans (AA), who exhibit more pronounced inflammation and, in turn, suffer from a higher burden of CVD and cancer-related mortality. The mechanisms that underlie this association among obesity, inflammation, and the bidirectional risk of CVD and cancer, particularly in AA, remain to be determined. Socio-economic disparities such as lack of access to healthy and affordable food may promote obesity and exacerbate hypertension and other CVD risk factors in AA. In turn, the resulting pro-inflammatory milieu contributes to the higher burden of CVD and cancer in AA. Additionally, biological factors that regulate systemic inflammation may be contributory. Mutations in atypical chemokine receptor 1 (ACKR1), otherwise known as the Duffy antigen receptor for chemokines (DARC), confer protection against malaria. Many AAs carry a mutation in the gene encoding this receptor, resulting in loss of its expression. ACKR1 functions as a decoy chemokine receptor, thus dampening chemokine receptor activation and inflammation. Published and preliminary data in humans and mice genetically deficient in ACKR1 suggest that this common gene mutation may contribute to ethnic susceptibility to obesity-related disease, CVD, and cancer. In this narrative review, we present the evidence regarding obesity-related disparities in the bidirectional risk of CVD and cancer and also discuss the potential association of gene polymorphisms in AAs with emphasis on ACKR1.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalFrontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine
StatePublished - Oct 18 2021


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