How do androgens affect the breast?

Updated: Mar 14, 2018
  • Author: Mohamed Yahya Abdel-Rahman, MD, MSc; Chief Editor: Richard Scott Lucidi, MD, FACOG  more...
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Androgen receptors are present in mammary epithelial cells in addition to estrogen and progesterone receptors. The proposed mechanisms include either direct stimulation of the androgen receptors or conversion to estradiol by the aromatase enzyme present in breast tissue. Androgens, particularly DHEA and testosterone, have been reported to protect against mammary epithelial proliferation in female monkeys. The reverse effect was reported when the antiandrogen flutamide was given to those animals. [11]

Few data are available regarding the effects of androgens on human breasts. Hyperandrogenemia in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) doesn’t appear to have significant risk of breast cancer. [12] In a prospective randomized controlled study in postmenopausal women evaluating breast cell proliferation and testosterone, the authors found no significant difference when testosterone was added to estrogen and progesterone, while they found a 5-fold increase in breast cell proliferation in women taking the placebo. [13]

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