Chronic antigenic stimulation is associated with hypergamma-globulinemia. Higher rates of hypergamma-globulinemia in tropical populations are maintained even with migration to temperate regions. We conducted a population-based screening study to assess the prevalence and risk factors for hypergamma-globulinemia in Ghana, Africa. 917 Ghanaian males (50-74 years) underwent in-person interviews and health examinations. Serum from all persons was analyzed by electrophoresis performed on agarose gel; serum with a discrete/localized band was subjected to immunofixation. 54 persons with monoclonal proteins were excluded and 17 samples were insufficient for analysis. Using logistic regression and Chi-square statistics we analyzed patterns of hypergamma-globulinemia. Among 846 study subjects, the median γ-globulin level was 1.86 g/dL. On the basis of a U.S. reference, 616 (73%) had hypergamma-globulinemia (>1.6 g/dL) and 178 (21%) had γ-globulin levels >2.17 gm/dl. On multivariate analyses, lower education status (P = 0.0013) and never smoking (P = 0.038) were associated with increased γ-globulin levels. Self-reported history of syphilis was associated with hypergamma-globulinemia. We conclude that three quarters of this population-based adult Ghanaian male sample had hypergamma-globulinemia with γ-globulin levels >1.6 g/dL. Future studies are needed to uncover genetic and environmental underpinnings of our finding, and to define the relationship between hypergamma-globulinemia, monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), and multiple myeloma.
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