Racial differences in prostate cancer: does timing of puberty play a role?

Abstract

The burden of prostate cancer has a remarkably disproportionate distribution across racial groups. For example, in the USA, African Americans are twice as likely as individuals of European ancestry to develop or die from prostate cancer, and have a more aggressive disease nature at diagnosis. In contrast, Asian American men have the lowest incidence and mortality rates of prostate cancer. That considerable racial disparities exist even in the subclinical stage of prostate cancer among young men in their 20–30s suggests that patterns of prostate carcinogenesis start to diverge even earlier, perhaps during puberty, when the prostate matures at its most rapid rate. Mendelian randomisation studies have provided strong population-based evidence supporting the hypothesis that earlier onset of puberty increases the risk of prostate cancer—particularly of high grade—and prostate cancer-specific mortality later in life, observations which correspond to the epidemiology of the disease in African Americans. Notably, African American boys initiate genital development ~1 year earlier and thus go through longer periods of pubertal maturation compared with European American boys. In this perspective, bringing together existing evidence, we point to puberty as a potential critical window of increased susceptibility to prostate carcinogenesis that could account for the marked prevailing racial differences in the burden of prostate cancer.

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Fig. 1: Puberty as a potential window of susceptibility for prostate cancer development.

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Hur, J., Giovannucci, E. Racial differences in prostate cancer: does timing of puberty play a role?. Br J Cancer (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41416-020-0897-4

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