Objectives: The risk of some cancers is positively associated with body weight, which may influence circulating levels of sex-steroid hormones, insulin and IGF-I. Interrelationships between these hormones and the associations with adiposity were evaluated in healthy women participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).
Methods: A cross-sectional analysis was performed on anthropometric and hormonal data from 743 pre- and 1217 postmenopausal women. Body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference were used as indicators of adiposity. C-peptide, Insulin Growth Factor (IGF)-I, Insulin Growth Factor binding protein (IGFBP)-3, androgens, estrogens and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) were measured by immunoassays; free sex steroid concentrations were calculated.
Results: BMI and waist circumference were positively correlated with estrogens in postmenopausal women and with C-peptide, free testosterone and inversely with SHBG in all women. C-peptide and IGF-I were inversely correlated with SHBG, and positively with free sex steroids in postmenopausal women. IGF-I was positively associated with postmenopausal estrogens and androgen concentrations in all women.
Conclusions: Sex-steroid concentrations appear to be regulated along several axes. Adiposity correlated directly with estrogens in postmenopausal women and with insulin, resulting in lower SHBG and increased levels of free sex steroids. Independent of adiposity and insulin, IGF-I was associated with decreased SHBG levels, and increased concentrations of androgens and postmenopausal estrogens.