Prostate cancer is the most common serious cancer diagnosed in men in the United States. This disease is also characterized by a striking racial/ethnic variation in incidence: highest in African-Americans, intermediate in Caucasians, slightly lower in Latinos, and lowest in Asians. Ample biochemical and epidemiological evidence suggests a role for androgens, particularly testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, in prostate cancer etiology. We have analyzed a candidate gene for prostate cancer, tSRD5A2, encoding prostatic steroid 5α-reductase type II, which converts testosterone into the more bioactive dihydrotestosterone, for mutations. We report here one amino acid substitution, V89L, which replaces valine at codon 89 with leucine. This substitution is a “germline” (constitutional) DNA polymorphism, and it is common, panethnic, and reduces in vivo steroid 5α-reductase activity. This substitution is particularly common among Asians and may explain the low risk for prostate cancer in this population.

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This work was supported by Grants CD 53890 (to M. C. Y.) and CA 68581 (to J. K. V. R.).

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