What is the role of sex hormones in the etiology of breast cancer?

Updated: Dec 26, 2019
  • Author: Graham A Colditz, MD, DrPH; Chief Editor: Chandandeep Nagi, MD  more...
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Answer

Several lines of evidence have long suggested that sex hormones play a central role in the etiology of breast cancer. As noted above, rates of breast cancer increase rapidly in the premenopausal years, but the rate of increase slows sharply at menopause, when endogenous hormone levels decline. In addition, several reproductive variables that alter estrogen status affect risk of breast cancer; for example, early age at menarche and late age at menopause increase risk of breast cancer. After menopause, adipose tissue is the major source of estrogen, and obese postmenopausal women have both higher levels of endogenous estrogen and a higher risk of breast cancer. In addition, hormonal manipulations such as antiestrogens evaluated in randomized controlled trials (eg, tamoxifen, raloxifene) prevent breast cancer. [31, 32]


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