Shorter CAG repeat length in the androgen receptor gene is associated with more aggressive forms of breast cancer

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2000 Jan;59(2):153-61. doi: 10.1023/a:1006356502820.


The androgen receptor (AR) is a transcription factor mediating the action of androgens. The AR gene is localized on chromosome X and it contains a series of CAG trinucleotide repeats. The length of the CAG repeats varies among individuals and this polymorphism is believed to be related to AR transcriptional activity. Studies have shown that fewer CAG repeats are associated with an increased risk as well as more aggressive forms of prostate cancer. Although AR is expressed in breast cancer and the impact of androgen and AR on breast cancer has been recognized, the role of the CAG repeats in breast cancer remains unknown. In this study, we measured the CAG repeats in breast cancer tissue using a PCR-based method. Of the 133 patients with primary breast cancer, 102 were heterozygous and 31 were homozygous. The mean CAG repeat number for homozygous women was 21; for heterozygous women the repeat number mean was 20 for the short allele and 24 for the long allele. The length of CAG repeats either in one allele or in both alleles was inversely correlated with the histological grade of breast cancer (r = -0.23 or -0.26, respectively, p < 0.05). An association between positive lymph nodes and fewer CAG repeats in both alleles was also suggested (p = 0.06). Furthermore, survival analysis indicated that the total number of CAG repeats in both alleles was associated with patient overall survival. With every CAG repeat increase, there was a 6% reduction in the risk of death (RR = 0.94, p = 0.03). The association remained significant after controlling for the homozygous and heterozygous status (RR = 0.92, p = 0.01). The association became no longer significant when clinical and pathological variables were adjusted in the analysis but this could be due to the reduction of sample size in the multivariate analysis. CAG heterozygosity and difference in number of CAG repeats between the two alleles were not associated with either disease features or patient survival. Our results suggest that longer CAG repeats may occur more frequently in less aggressive cancer and that the CAG repeats may play a role in breast cancer progression.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alleles
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prognosis
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics*
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Trinucleotide Repeats / genetics*


  • Receptors, Androgen