Circulating steroid hormones and the risk of prostate cancer

Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2006 Jan;15(1):86-91. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-05-0633.


Epidemiologic studies have failed to support the hypothesis that circulating androgens are positively associated with prostate cancer risk and some recent studies have even suggested that high testosterone levels might be protective particularly against aggressive cancer. We tested this hypothesis by measuring total testosterone, androstanediol glucuronide, androstenedione, DHEA sulfate, estradiol, and sex hormone-binding globulin in plasma collected at baseline in a prospective cohort study of 17,049 men. We used a case-cohort design, including 524 cases diagnosed during a mean 8.7 years follow-up and a randomly sampled sub-cohort of 1,859 men. The association between each hormone level and prostate cancer risk was tested using Cox models adjusted for country of birth. The risk of prostate cancer was approximately 30% lower for a doubling of the concentration of estradiol but the evidence was weak (P(trend)=0.07). None of the other hormones was associated with overall prostate cancer (P(trend) >or= 0.3). None of the hormones was associated with nonaggressive prostate cancer (all P(trend) >or= 0.2). The hazard ratio [HR; 95% confidence interval (95% CI)] for aggressive cancer almost halved for a doubling of the concentration of testosterone (HR, 0.55; 95% CI, 0.32-0.95) and androstenedione (HR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.31-0.83), and was 37% lower for a doubling of the concentration of DHEA sulfate (HR, 0.63; 95% CI, 0.46-0.87). Similar negative but nonsignificant linear trends in risk for aggressive cancer were obtained for free testosterone, estradiol, and sex hormone-binding globulin (P(trend)=0.06, 0.2, and 0.1, respectively). High levels of testosterone and adrenal androgens are thus associated with reduced risk of aggressive prostate cancer but not with nonaggressive disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / blood*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / metabolism*
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Testosterone