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Native peoples of the New World, including Amerindians and admixed Latin Americans such as Mexican-Americans, are highly susceptible to diseases of the gallbladder. These include cholesterol cholelithiasis (gallstones) and its complications, as well as cancer of the gallbladder. Although there is clearly some necessary dietary or other environmental risk factor involved, the pattern of disease prevalence is geographically associated with the distribution of genes of aboriginal Amerindian origin, and levels of risk generally correspond to the degree of Amerindian admixture. This pattern differs from that generally associated with Westernization, which suggests a gene-environment interaction, and that within an admixed population there is a subset whose risk is underestimated when admixture is ignored. The risk that an individual of a susceptible New World genotype will undergo a cholecystectomy by age 85 can approach 40% in Mexican-American females, and their risk of gallbladder cancer can reach several percent. These are heretofore unrecognized levels of risk, especially of the latter, because previous studies have not accounted for admixture or for the loss of at-risk individuals due to cholecystectomy. A genetic susceptibility may, thus, be as "carcinogenic" in New World peoples as any known major environmental exposure; yet, while the risk has a genetic basis, its expression as gallbladder cancer is so delayed as to lead only very rarely to multiply-affected families. Estimates in this paper are derived in part from two studies of Mexican-Americans in Starr County and Laredo, Texas.


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Asian People, Cholecystectomy, Cholelithiasis, Female, Gallbladder Diseases, Gallbladder Neoplasms, Hispanic or Latino, Humans, Indians, North American, Indians, South American, Inuit, Male, Mexico, Middle Aged, Texas, United States, White People