Leptin expression in breast nipple aspirate fluid (NAF) and serum is influenced by body mass index (BMI) but not by the presence of breast cancer

Horm Metab Res. 2004 May;36(5):336-40. doi: 10.1055/s-2004-814490.


While obesity is a known risk factor for postmenopausal breast cancer, the molecular mechanisms involved are unclear. Systemic levels of leptin, the product of the ob (obesity) gene, are increased in obese individuals (body mass index, BMI, over 25) and are higher in women than men. Leptin has been found to stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells in vitro. Our goal was to determine whether leptin was 1) present in nipple aspirate fluid (NAF), and 2) whether NAF leptin levels were associated with a) levels in serum, b) obesity, and c) breast cancer. We collected and evaluated NAF specimens from 83 subjects and serum specimens from 49 subjects. NAF leptin was detectable in 16/41 (39 %) of premenopausal and 21/42 (50 %) postmenopausal subjects. NAF leptin was significantly lower (p = 0.042) in premenopausal than postmenopausal women with a BMI < 25, but not in those with a higher BMI. NAF leptin was significantly associated with BMI in premenopausal (p = 0.011) but not in postmenopausal women. Serum leptin was associated with BMI in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women (p = 0.0001 for both). NAF and serum leptin were associated in premenopausal (p = 0.02) but not postmenopausal women. Neither NAF nor serum leptin was associated with premenopausal or postmenopausal breast cancer. Our findings include that 1) leptin is present in the breast and detectable in a subset of NAF samples, 2) NAF leptin in premenopausal but not postmenopausal women parallels serum leptin levels, and 3) neither NAF nor serum levels of leptin were associated with premenopausal or postmenopausal breast cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leptin / blood*
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nipples / metabolism*
  • Postmenopause
  • Premenopause


  • Leptin