Estrogens and women's health: interrelation of coronary heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2000 Nov 30;74(5):297-309. doi: 10.1016/s0960-0760(00)00106-0.


The determinants of blood levels of estrogen, estrogen metabolites, and relation to receptors and post-transitional effects are the likely primary cause of breast cancer. Very high risk women for breast cancer can now be identified by measuring bone mineral density and hormone levels. These high risk women have rates of breast cancer similar to risk of myocardial infarction. They are candidates for SERM therapies to reduce risk of breast cancer. The completion of the Women's Health Initiative and other such trials will likely provide a definite association of risk and benefit of both estrogen alone and estrogen-progesterone therapy, coronary heart disease, osteoporotic fracture, and breast cancer. The potential intervention of hormone replacement therapy, obesity, or weight gain and increased atherogenic lipoproteinemia may be of concern and confound the results of clinical trials. Estrogens, clearly, are important in the risk of bone loss and osteoporotic fracture. Obesity is the primary determinant of postmenopausal estrogen levels and reduced risk of fracture. Weight reduction may increase rates of bone loss and fracture. Clinical trials that evaluate weight loss should monitor effects on bone. The beneficial addition of increased physical activity, higher dose of calcium or vitamin D, or use of bone reabsorption drugs in coordination with weight loss should be evaluated. Any therapy that raises blood estrogen or metabolite activity and decreases bone loss may increase risk of breast cancer. Future clinical trials must evaluate multiple endpoints such as CHD, osteoporosis, and breast cancer within the study. The use of surrogate markers such as bone mineral density, coronary calcium, carotid intimal medial thickness and plaque, endothelial function, breast density, hormone levels and metabolites could enhance the evaluation of risk factors, genetic-environmental intervention, and new therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anthropometry
  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Coronary Disease / blood
  • Coronary Disease / complications
  • Coronary Disease / drug therapy
  • Coronary Disease / metabolism*
  • Estrogens / blood
  • Estrogens / metabolism*
  • Estrogens / pharmacology
  • Estrogens / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / complications
  • Osteoporosis / drug therapy
  • Osteoporosis / metabolism*
  • Postmenopause / drug effects
  • Premenopause / drug effects
  • Progesterone / metabolism
  • Progesterone / pharmacology
  • Progesterone / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors


  • Estrogens
  • Progesterone
  • Calcium