Purpose of review: Despite clinical and experimental evidence that show androgens are important in prostate carcinogenesis, epidemiologic studies of serum androgens have been inconclusive. In this review, we summarize the current state of the literature and provide insights and direction for epidemiologic research on androgens and prostate cancer.
Recent findings: To date, data on serum androgens in prostate cancer remain inconclusive. Large studies on variants in some androgen-metabolizing genes [SRD5A2, CYP17A1, and hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (HSD)17B1] do not show a convincing links to prostate cancer, though there are insufficient data to draw conclusions on other genes related to androgen metabolism, including UDP-glycosyltransferases (UGT), sulfotransferases (SULT), CYP3A, and estrogen-related genes. There is some evidence, although controversial, suggesting that select variants may confer risk to certain subtypes of prostate cancer. The most notable finding in 2007 is the highly reproducible link between the chromosome 8q24 risk region and prostate cancer susceptibility.
Summary: Besides the link between the 8q24 region and prostate cancer risk, population studies do not convincingly show that polymorphisms in androgen metabolism genes are associated with prostate cancer risk. Large epidemiologic studies with comprehensive gene coverage and reliable exposure data are needed to clarify further the role of androgens and their related genes in prostate cancer.