Prostate cancer risk: the significance of differences in age related changes in serum conjugated and unconjugated steroid hormone concentrations between Arab and Caucasian men

E O Kehinde, A O Akanji, A Memon, A A Bashir, A S Daar, K A Al-Awadi, T Fatinikun
International Urology and Nephrology 2006, 38 (1): 33-44

INTRODUCTION: Factors responsible for the low incidence of clinical prostate cancer (3-8/100,000 men/year) in the Arab population remain unclear, but may be related to changes in steroid hormone metabolism. We compared the levels of serum conjugated and unconjugated steroids between Arab and Caucasian populations, to determine if these can provide a rational explanation for differences in incidence of prostate cancer between the two populations.

PATIENTS/METHOD: Venous blood samples were obtained from 329 unselected apparently healthy indigenous Arab men (Kuwaitis and Omanis) aged 15-80 years. Samples were also obtained from similar Arab men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The samples were taken between 8:00 am and 12:00 noon. Serum levels of total testosterone, (TT), sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), free androgen index (FAI); adrenal C19-steroids, dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) and androstenedione (ADT) were determined using Immulite kits (Diagnostic Systems Laboratories Inc, Webster Texas, USA). The results obtained in Arab men were compared with those reported for similarly aged Chinese, German and White USA men.

RESULTS: In all four ethnic groups, median TT and FAI declined with age, while SHBG increased with age. However, the mean TT and SHBG was significantly lower (p < 0.01) and the FAI significantly higher in Arab men (p < 0.01) compared to German men only in 21-30 years age group. In the other age groups the levels of TT and SHBG were higher in the Germans but the differences were not statistically significant. In all the racial groups serum levels of DHEAS and ADT reached a peak by about 20 years of life, and then declined progressively. The mean DHEAS in American Caucasians aged 20-29 years was 11.4 micromol/l compared to 6.22 micromol/l in the Arabs (p < 0.001). The mean DHEAS in USA Caucasians aged 70-79 years was 2.5 micromol/l compared to 1.8 micromol/l (p < 0.03) in the Arabs. There was no significant difference in mean serum levels of DHEAS between German and USA men. Similarly, there was no significant difference in the level of the hormones between Arab and Chinese men. Arab men with newly diagnosed prostate cancer had high serum TT, SHBG and DHEAS compared to those without the disease.

CONCLUSIONS: The mean TT and SHBG was significantly lower in Arab men compared to Caucasian men especially in early adulthood. Caucasians have significantly higher serum levels of the precursor androgens DHEAS and ADT especially in early adulthood compared to Arab men. These observations of low circulating androgens and their adrenal precursors in Arab men may partially account for the decreased risk for prostate cancer among Arab men.

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