3,3'-diindolylmethane modulates estrogen metabolism in patients with thyroid proliferative disease: a pilot study

Thyroid. 2011 Mar;21(3):299-304. doi: 10.1089/thy.2010.0245. Epub 2011 Jan 22.


Background: The incidence of thyroid cancer is four to five times higher in women than in men, suggesting a role for estrogen (E₂) in the pathogenesis of thyroid proliferative disease (TPD) that comprises cancer and goiter. The objective of this study was to investigate the antiestrogenic activity of 3,3'-diindolylmethane (DIM), a bioactive compound derived from cruciferous vegetables, in patients with TPD.

Methods: In this limited phase I clinical trial study, patients found to have TPD were administered 300 mg of DIM per day for 14 days. Patients subsequently underwent a total or partial thyroidectomy, and tissue, urine, and serum samples were collected. Pre- and post-DIM serum and urine samples were analyzed for DIM levels as well as estrogen metabolites. DIM levels were also determined in thyroid tissue samples.

Results: DIM was detectable in thyroid tissue, serum, and urine of patients after 14 days of supplementation. Urine analyses revealed that DIM modulated estrogen metabolism in patients with TPD. There was an increase in the ratio of 2-hydroxyestrones (C-2) to 16α-hydroxyestrone (C-16), consistent with antiestrogenic activity that results in more of C-2 product compared with C-16.

Conclusion: Our data suggest that DIM enhances estrogen metabolism in TPD patients and can potentially serve as an antiestrogenic dietary supplement to help reduce the risk of developing TPD. The fact that DIM is detected in thyroid tissue implicates that it can manifest its antiestrogenic activity in situ to modulate TPD.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Estrogens / metabolism*
  • Estrogens / urine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indoles / metabolism
  • Indoles / pharmacology*
  • Indoles / urine
  • Pilot Projects
  • Thyroid Gland / metabolism
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / surgery
  • Thyroidectomy


  • Estrogens
  • Indoles
  • 3,3'-diindolylmethane