Role of iron in estrogen-induced cancer

Curr Med Chem. 2001 Jun;8(7):839-49. doi: 10.2174/0929867013372931.


Redox cycling of catecholestrogen metabolites between quinone and catechol forms is a mechanism of generating potentially mutagenic oxygen radicals in estrogen-induced carcinogenesis. Consistent with this concept, multiple forms of oxygen radical-generated DNA damage are induced by estrogen in cell-free systems, in cells in culture and in rodents prone to estrogen-induced cancer. Metal ions, specifically iron, are necessary for the production of hydroxy radicals. Iron has not received much attention in discussions of estrogen-induced carcinogenesis and human hormone-associated cancer, and is the focus of this review. An elevated dietary iron intake enhances the incidence of carcinogen-induced mammary cancer in rats and estrogen-induced kidney tumors in Syrian hamsters. Estrogen administration increases iron accumulation in hamsters and facilitates iron uptake by cells in culture. In humans, elevated body iron storage has been shown to increase the risk of several cancers including breast cancer. A role of iron in hormone-associated cancer in humans offers attractive routes for cancer prevention by regulating metal ion metabolism and interfering with iron accumulation in tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Cocarcinogenesis*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Estrogens / adverse effects*
  • Estrogens / chemistry
  • Estrogens / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyl Radical / metabolism
  • Iron / metabolism*
  • Iron / toxicity*
  • Mutagens / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Oxidation-Reduction


  • Estrogens
  • Mutagens
  • Hydroxyl Radical
  • Iron