Estrogen and androgen signaling in the pathogenesis of BPH

Nat Rev Urol. 2011 Jan;8(1):29-41. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2010.207.


Estrogens and androgens have both been implicated as causes of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Although epidemiological data on an association between serum androgen concentrations and BPH are inconsistent, it is generally accepted that androgens play a permissive role in BPH pathogenesis. In clinical practice, inhibitors of 5α-reductase (which converts testosterone to the more potent androgen dihydrotestosterone) have proven effective in the management of BPH, confirming an essential role for androgens in BPH pathophysiology. To date, multiple lines of evidence support a role for estrogens in BPH pathogenesis. Studies of the two estrogen receptor (ER) subtypes have shed light on their differential functions in the human prostate; ERα and ERβ have proliferative and antiproliferative effects on prostate cells, respectively. Effects of estrogens on the prostate are associated with multiple mechanisms including apoptosis, aromatase expression and paracrine regulation via prostaglandin E2. Selective estrogen receptor modulators or other agents that can influence intraprostatic estrogen levels might conceivably be potential therapeutic targets for the treatment of BPH.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgen Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Aromatase / physiology
  • Aromatase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Cholestenone 5 alpha-Reductase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Cholestenone 5 alpha-Reductase / physiology
  • Estrogen Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Estrogens / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / drug therapy
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / etiology*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Androgens
  • Aromatase Inhibitors
  • Estrogen Antagonists
  • Estrogens
  • Aromatase
  • Cholestenone 5 alpha-Reductase