Aims/background: Our preliminary studies showed that estradiol suppresses hepatic carcinogenesis and fibrogenesis in animal models. Hepatic estrogen receptors (ERs) medicate estradiol action in the liver. This study was performed to assess possible implications of menopause and hepatic ER levels for the development of cirrhosis with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Methods: One thousand, one hundred and ninety-nine consecutive HCC patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related cirrhosis were divided into two groups, based on a menopausal age of 49 years. Liver tissues were obtained during surgical resection of HCC and metastatic liver tumor.
Results: The proportion of females among the HCC subjects < or =49 years of age was significantly lower (15.0%) than was the proportion of females among subjects >49 years of age (29.8%). Univariate analysis showed that HCV-related cirrhotic patients who developed HCC were more likely to have low hepatic levels of ER and copper-zinc superoxide dismutase (CuZn-SOD) protein and a high hepatic level of a lipid peroxidation product, malondialdehyde (MDA). Logistic regression identified age greater than 49 years (odds ratio [OR]: 7.9, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.8-21.3), male sex (OR: 3.5, 95% CI: 1.3-10.2), a decreased ER level (OR: 16.8, 95% CI: 7.3-34.6), and an increased MDA (OR: 8.3, 95% CI: 2.8-24.0) as the variables independently associated with the development of HCC in HCV-infected patients with cirrhosis. ER level was significantly correlated with CuZn-SOD level (r=0.583) and was inversely proportional to MDA level (r=-0.553). The study also showed that ER levels in the cirrhotic livers from premenopausal females were significantly higher than in male cirrhotic livers.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that increased lipid peroxidation and impaired SOD function in the liver may be associated with decreased hepatic ER levels in HCV-infected patients with cirrhosis and HCC, and that HCV-related cirrhotic women before menopause might have the ability to protect against developing HCC via hepatic ER.