Intracrinology of estrogens and androgens in breast carcinoma

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2008 Feb;108(3-5):181-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2007.09.012. Epub 2007 Sep 6.


Intratumoral metabolism and synthesis of biologically active steroids such as estradiol and 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone as a result of interactions of various enzymes are considered to play very important roles in the pathogenesis and development of hormone-dependent breast carcinoma. Among these enzymes involved in estrogen metabolism, intratumoral aromatase play an important role in converting androgens to estrogens in situ from serum and serving as the source of estrogens, especially in postmenopausal patients with breast carcinoma. However, other enzymes such as 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17beta-HSD) isozymes, estrogen sulfatase (STS), and estrogen sulfotransferase, which contribute to in situ availability of biologically active estrogens, also play pivotal roles in this intratumoral estrogen production above. Androgen action on human breast carcinoma has not been well-studied but are considered important not only in hormonal regulation but also other biological features of carcinoma cells. Intracrine mechanisms also play important roles in androgen actions on human breast carcinoma cells. Among the enzymes involved in biologically active androgen metabolism and/or synthesis, both 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 5 (17betaHSD5; conversion from circulating androstenedione to testosterone) and 5alpha-reductase (5alphaRed; reduction of testosterone to DHT (5alpha-dihydrotestosterone) were expressed in breast carcinoma tissues, and in situ production of DHT has been proposed in human breast cancer tissues. However, intracrine mechanisms of androgens as well as their biological or clinical significance in the patients with breast cancer have not been fully elucidated in contrast to those in estrogens.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Aromatase / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Breast Neoplasms* / physiopathology
  • Estrogens / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Androgen / physiology
  • Receptors, Estrogen / physiology


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Aromatase