Background: An important aspect of the link between estrogen and breast cancer is whether urinary estrogen levels are representative of the intra-tissue levels of bioavailable estrogens.
Methods: This study compares 15 estrogen and estrogen metabolite levels in breast tissue and urine of 9 women with primary breast cancer using a quantitative liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry method.
Results: The average levels of estrogens (estrone, 17 beta-estradiol) were significantly higher in breast tissue than in urine. Both the 2 and the 16-hydroxylation pathways were less represented in breast tissue than urine; no components of the 4-hydroxypathway were detected in breast tissue, while 4-hydroxyestrone was measured in urine. However, the 2/16 ratio was similar in urine and breast tissue. Women carrying the variant CYP1B1 genotype (Leu/Val and Val/Val) showed significantly lower overall estrogen metabolite, estrogen, and 16-hydroxylation pathway levels in breast tissue in comparison to women carrying the wild type genotype. No effect of the CYP1B1 polymorphism was observed in urinary metabolites.
Conclusions: The urinary 2/16 ratio seems a good approximation of the ratio observed in breast tissue. Metabolic genes may have an important role in the estrogen metabolism locally in tissues where the gene is expressed, a role that is not readily observable when urinary measurements are performed.