The role of cytokines in regulating estrogen synthesis: implications for the etiology of breast cancer

Breast Cancer Res. 2002;4(2):65-9. doi: 10.1186/bcr425. Epub 2002 Jan 14.


Cytokines, such as IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, have an important role in regulating estrogen synthesis in peripheral tissues, including normal and malignant breast tissues. The activities of the aromatase, estradiol 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase and estrone sulfatase are all increased by IL-6 and TNF-alpha. Prostaglandin E2 may also be an important regulator of aromatase activity in breast tumors. Macrophages and lymphocytes, which invade many breast tumors, are thought to be an important source of factors that can stimulate estrogen synthesis in malignant breast tissues. The co-ordinated stimulation of the activities of the enzymes that are involved in estrogen synthesis offers an explanation for the high concentrations of estrogens that are present in breast tumors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aromatase / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Cytokines / physiology*
  • Estradiol Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Estrogens / biosynthesis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / physiology
  • Sulfatases / metabolism
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / physiology


  • Cytokines
  • Estrogens
  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Estradiol Dehydrogenases
  • Aromatase
  • Sulfatases
  • estrone sulfatase