Cholesterol oxides and carcinogenesis

J Clin Lab Anal. 1991;5(3):219-25. doi: 10.1002/jcla.1860050312.


Experimental evidence indicates a relationship between cholesterol alpha-epoxide and skin cancer, and exposure of skin fibroblasts to ultraviolet radiation enduces formation of significant levels of this oxide. Colon cancer is also etiologically linked to cholesterol oxidation products. Higher than normal levels of cholestanetriol have been found in patients with colon cancer and also in those with precancerous disorders such as adenomatous polyps and ulcerative colitis. Higher than normal levels of cholesterol alpha-epoxide have been found in breast fluid aspirates of women with benign breast disease, with or without atypical hyperplasia of the epithelium, and this may be a factor in the increased incidence of breast cancer associated with hyperplasia. Similarly, the observed increased levels of cholesterol alpha and beta-epoxides in prostatic fluid of men with benign prostatic hypertrophy may be associated with subsequent development of prostate cancer. Cholesterol alpha-epoxide has been found to be mutagenic to fibroblasts in culture and to induce morphological transformation in hamster embryo cells and in mouse C3H cells. 25-Hydroxycholesterol and 20 alpha-hydroxycholesterol are potent suppressors of generation and proliferation of tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocytes. Although investigations into the role of cholesterol oxidation products in cancer are still in the early stages, evidence to date indicates a potentially significant role in the induction of some types of cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biotransformation
  • Carcinogens*
  • Cholesterol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Cholesterol / isolation & purification
  • Cholesterol / pharmacokinetics
  • Cholesterol / toxicity
  • Cholesterol, Dietary / adverse effects
  • Cholesterol, Dietary / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / chemistry*
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / chemically induced*


  • Carcinogens
  • Cholesterol, Dietary
  • cholesterol alpha-oxide
  • Cholesterol