Sex steroid hormone levels in breast adipose tissue and serum in postmenopausal women

Roni T. Falk, Elisabet Gentzschein, Frank Z. Stanczyk, Montserrat Garcia-Closas, Jonine D. Figueroa, Olga B. Ioffe, Jolanta Lissowska, Louise A. Brinton, Mark E. Sherman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Elevated levels of circulating estrogens and androgens are linked to higher breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women; however, little is known about hormone levels within the breast. Hormone concentrations within the breast may not be reflected in the blood and are likely important contributors to breast carcinogenesis. We used a previously validated method to measure levels of estrone, estradiol, androstenedione, and testosterone in adipose tissue removed as part of breast excisions performed for cancer in 100 postmenopausal women (69 ER/PR +/+ and 31 ER/PR -/-) participating in a breast cancer case-control study. We also measured the same steroid hormones, as well as estrone sulfate, and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in serum from these patients and 100 controls matched on ages at blood collection and on menopause. Overall, concentrations of serum hormones did not vary significantly between controls and cases. However, women with ER-/PR- breast cancers had lower circulating levels of all measured sex steroid hormones and higher SHBG levels than women with ER+/PR+ breast cancers and controls. Similarly, hormone concentrations in breast adipose tissue were higher among women with ER+/PR+ compared to ER-/PR- breast cancer, although differences were only significant for testosterone. These data demonstrate that high sex steroid concentrations in both serum and adipose tissues are more strongly related to ER+/PR+ than ER-/PR- breast cancers. Measurement of sex hormones in serum and in the microenvironment may help in understanding the hormonal etiology of breast cancer, suggest methods for prevention, and have value in gauging treatment response and prognosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-294
Number of pages8
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Breast adipose
  • Breast cancer
  • Hormone receptor
  • Intratissue
  • Sex steroid hormone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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