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It is well established that African Americans exhibit higher incidence, higher mortality, and more aggressive forms of some cancers, including those of breast, prostate, colon, stomach, and cervix. Here we examine the ancestral haplotype of the TRPV6 calcium channel as a putative genomic factor in this racial divide. The minor (ancestral) allele frequency is 60% in people of African ancestry, but between 1 and 11% in all other populations. Research on TRPV6 structure/function, its association with specific cancers, and the evolutionary-ecological conditions which impacted selection of its haplotypes are synthesized to provide evidence for TRPV6 as a germline susceptibility locus in cancer. Recently elucidated mechanisms of TRPV6 channel deactivation are discussed in relation to the location of the allele favored in selection, suggesting a reduced capacity to inactivate the channel in those who have the ancestral haplotype. This could result in an excessively high cellular Ca2+, which has been implicated in cancer, for those in settings where calcium intake is far higher than in their ancestral environment. A recent report associating increasing calcium intake with a pattern of increase in aggressive prostate cancer in African-American but not European-American men may be related. If TRPV6 is found to be associated with cancer, further research would be warranted to improve risk assessment and examine interventions with the aim of improving cancer outcomes for people of African ancestry


Originally published in the Journal for Cancer Prevention Research. 2020 May 1;13(5):423-8