Prostate cancer (PCa) is the most commonly diagnosed male malignancy and the second biggest cause of cancer death in men of the Western world. Higher incidences of PCa occur in men from North America, Oceania and Western countries, whereas men from Asia and North Africa have a much lower PCa incidence rate. Investigations into this population disparity of PCa incidence, in order to identify potential preventive factors or targets for the therapeutic intervention of PCa, have found differences in both environmental and genetic variations between these populations. Environmental variations include both diet and lifestyle, which vary widely between populations. Evidence that diet comes into play has been shown by men who immigrate from Eastern to Western countries. PCa incidence in these men is higher than men in their native countries. However the number of immigrants developing PCa still doesn't match native black/white men, therefore genetic factors also contribute to PCa risk, which are supported by familial studies. There are a number of genetic polymorphisms that are differentially presented between Western and Eastern men, which are potentially associated with PCa incidence. Androgen and its receptor (AR) play a major role in PCa development and progression. In this study, we focus on genes involved in androgen biosynthesis and metabolism, as well as those associated with AR pathway, whose polymorphisms affect androgen level and biological or physiological functions of androgen. While many of the genetic polymorphisms in this androgen/AR system showed different frequencies between populations, contradictory evidences exist for most of these genes investigated individually as to the true contribution to PCa risk. More accurate measurements of androgen activity within the prostate are required and further studies need to include more African and Asian subjects. As many of these genetic polymorphisms may contribute to different steps in the same biological/physiological function of androgen and AR pathway, an integrated analysis considering the combined effect of all the genetic polymorphisms may be necessary to assess their contribution to PCa initiation and progression.
Keywords: Prostate cancer; androgen; androgen receptor; ethnical disparity; genetic polymorphism; risk factors.