African Americans are at increased risk of cancer and associated mortalities compared with European American populations. Socioeconomic, cultural, and biological factors have been implicated in this discrepancy. In this issue of the JCI, Piyarathna et al. identify a set of genes that are upregulated in a number of tumor types in African American cancer patients as compared with European American patients. These genes were associated with enhanced oxidative phosphorylation and upregulation of transcription factors that promote mitochondrial biogenesis, resulting in greater numbers of mitochondria in tumor samples from African American subjects. Together, these results indicate that mitochondria dysfunction may underlie the increased cancer incidence and poor outcomes observed in African American patients.
Jennifer L. Beebe-Dimmer, Kathleen A. Cooney