Despite having the lowest rates of prostate cancer in the world, Asian countries have experienced a rapid rise in incidence of the disease, which ranks as one of the world's most prevalent forms of cancer. In Japan, Western lifestyles and an aging society have led to surging prostate cancer rates, contributing to growing public interest in understanding associated genetic factors. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which involve scanning complete genomes for variations linked to a particular disease, have drawn attention as a powerful means to do this.
In their study, researchers at the RIKEN Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM) and the University of Tokyo compared such variations, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), in a population made up of 4,584 Japanese men with prostate cancer and 8,801 control subjects. Out of 31 SNPs linked to prostate cancer susceptibility in previous studies on European subjects, they found that 19 were also associated with susceptibility in the Japanese population. The remaining 12 SNPs showed no association, while five new genomic regions were identified as associated with prostate cancer which had not been reported in early studies on European populations.
While deepening our understanding of the genetic basis of prostate carcinogenesis, these findings, the first ever genome-wide data on prostate cancer in a non-European population, highlight variation in susceptibility among ethnic populations. A better understanding of such variation promises more accurate risk assessment, improvements in screening protocols and more effective clinical treatment.