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Open Access Research article

A strong association of axillary osmidrosis with the wet earwax type determined by genotyping of the ABCC11 gene

Motoi Nakano1, Nobutomo Miwa24, Akiyoshi Hirano1, Koh-ichiro Yoshiura24* and Norio Niikawa34

Author affiliations

1 Department of Reconstruction and Plastic Surgery, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Nagasaki, Japan

2 Department of Human Genetics, Nagasaki University Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Nagasaki, Japan

3 Research Institute of Personalized Health Sciences, Health Sciences University of Hokkaido, Hokkaido, Japan

4 Solution Oriented Research of Science and Technology (SORST), Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), Tokyo, Japan

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Citation and License

BMC Genetics 2009, 10:42  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-10-42

Published: 4 August 2009



Two types of cerumen occur in humans: the wet type with brownish, sticky earwax, and the dry type with a lack of or reduced ceruminous secretion. The wet type is common in populations of European and African origin, while the dry type is frequently seen in Eastern Asian populations. An association between axillary odor and the wet-type earwax was first identified approximately 70 years ago. The data were based on a phenotypical analysis of the two phenotypes among the Japanese by a researcher or by self-declaration of the subjects examined, and were not obtained using definite diagnostic methods. Recently, we identified a single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP; rs17822931) of the ABCC11 gene as the determinant of the earwax types. In the present study, to determine whether the SNP can serve as a diagnostic marker for axillary osmidrosis (AO), we examined genotypes at rs17822931 in 79 Japanese AO individuals. AO was defined here as a clinical condition of individuals with a deep anxiety regarding axillary odor and had undergone the removal of bilateral axillary apocrine glands.


A comparison of the frequencies of genotypes at rs17822931 in the 79 AO individuals and in 161 Japanese from the general population showed that AO was strongly associated with the wet earwax genotype. A total of 78 (98.7%) of 79 AO patients had either the GG or GA genotype, while these genotypes were observed in 35.4% (57/161) of the subjects from the general population (p < 1.1 × 10-24, by Fisher's exact test).


The strong association between the wet-earwax associated ABCC11-genotypes (GG and GA) and AO identified in this study indicates that the genotypes are good markers for the diagnosis of AO. In addition, these results suggest that having the allele G is a prerequisite for the axillary odor expression. In other words, the ABCC11 protein may play a role in the excretory function of the axillary apocrine gland. Together, these results suggest that when an AO individual visiting a hospital is diagnosed with dry-type earwax by ABCC11-genotyping, surgical removal of their axillary glands may not be indicated.