Gastric cancer is one of the most lethal types of cancer and its incidence varies worldwide, with the Andean region of South America showing high incidence rates. We evaluated the genetic structure of the population from Lima (Peru) and performed a case-control genetic association study to test the contribution of African, European, or Native American ancestry to risk for gastric cancer, controlling for the effect of non-genetic factors. A wide set of socioeconomic, dietary, and clinic information was collected for each participant in the study and ancestry was estimated based on 103 ancestry informative markers. Although the urban population from Lima is usually considered as mestizo (i.e., admixed from Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans), we observed a high fraction of Native American ancestry (78.4% for the cases and 74.6% for the controls) and a very low African ancestry (<5%). We determined that higher Native American individual ancestry is associated with gastric cancer, but socioeconomic factors associated both with gastric cancer and Native American ethnicity account for this association. Therefore, the high incidence of gastric cancer in Peru does not seem to be related to susceptibility alleles common in this population. Instead, our result suggests a predominant role for ethnic-associated socioeconomic factors and disparities in access to health services. Since Native Americans are a neglected group in genomic studies, we suggest that the population from Lima and other large cities from Western South America with high Native American ancestry background may be convenient targets for epidemiological studies focused on this ethnic group.
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