Comparison of hormone levels in nipple aspirate fluid of pre- and postmenopausal women: effect of oral contraceptives and hormone replacement

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2005 Mar;90(3):1686-91. doi: 10.1210/jc.2004-1861. Epub 2004 Nov 30.


The effects of ovarian suppression by oral contraceptives as well as hormone replacement therapy were studied on hormone levels and on products of hormone action in nipple aspirate fluid (NAF) from breasts of pre- and postmenopausal women. Multiple samples per subject revealed high consistency (intraclass correlation coefficients) for all products measured. Compared with premenopausal women, NAF progesterone was much lower in postmenopausal women, but NAF androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate concentrations were not different. With oral contraceptive use, estradiol, estrone sulfate, and progesterone levels were similarly lower in serum and NAF. In postmenopausal women, NAF estradiol and estrone sulfate were not significantly less than those in premenopausal women, nor were epidermal growth factor or cathepsin D levels, but IL-6 was elevated. Despite corresponding changes in hormones in serum and NAF over time, correlations based on simultaneous sampling were not significant. It is concluded that: 1) potential precursors of estradiol remain at comparable levels in the breast after menopause; 2) local synthesis is important for maintenance of estradiol levels in NAF of postmenopausal women but less important for progesterone; and 3) changes in the serum parameters are accurately reflected in NAF, but only after a matter of days. These findings provide additional validation for the physiological relevance of NAF hormone levels as potential breast cancer risk markers.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • 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
  • Androstenedione / blood
  • Androstenedione / metabolism
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / administration & dosage*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / metabolism
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / metabolism
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy*
  • Estrogens / blood
  • Estrogens / metabolism*
  • Estrone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Estrone / blood
  • Estrone / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nipples / metabolism
  • Postmenopause / metabolism*
  • Premenopause / metabolism*
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Progesterone / metabolism
  • Suction


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Estrogens
  • Estrone
  • Androstenedione
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Progesterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • estrone sulfate