Role of estrogens in development of prostate cancer

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2004 Nov;92(4):297-305. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2004.10.016. Epub 2004 Dec 19.


Estrogens have previously been extensively used in prostate cancer treatment. Serious side effects, primarily in cardiovascular system have, however, limited their use. The therapeutic effect of estrogen in preventing prostate cancer growth was mainly obtained indirectly by feedback inhibition of the hypothalamic release of LRH leading to lowered serum androgen levels and castration like effects. Prostate tissue is also most probably a target for direct regulation by estrogens. Prostate contains estrogen receptor alpha (ERalpha) and beta (ERbeta), which are localized characteristically in stroma and epithelium, respectively. The physiological function of these receptors is not known but there is evidence of the role of estrogens in prostatic carcinogenesis. Developing prostate seems particularly sensitive to increased level of endogenous and/or exogenous estrogens. Perinatal or neonatal exposure of rats and mice to estrogens leads to "imprinting" of prostate associated with increased proliferation, inflammation and dysplastic epithelial changes later in life. Prolonged treatment of adult rodents with estrogens along with androgens also leads to epithelial metaplasia, PIN-like lesions and even adenocarcinoma of prostate speaking for the role of estrogen in prostate cancer development. Recent results concerning antiestrogen inhibition of prostate cancer development beyond PIN-type lesions in transgenic mouse models further suggests a role for estrogens in prostate cancer progression. These results also suggest that direct inhibition of estrogen action at the level of prostate tissue may provide an important novel principle of development of prostate cancer therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Estrogen Receptor Modulators / therapeutic use
  • Estrogens / pharmacology
  • Estrogens / physiology*
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Organogenesis / drug effects
  • Phytoestrogens / therapeutic use
  • Prolactin / physiology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / physiology
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators / therapeutic use


  • Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Estrogens
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Prolactin