The effect of tamoxifen and raloxifene on estrogen metabolism and endometrial cancer risk

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2011 Sep;126(3-5):78-86. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2011.05.001. Epub 2011 May 10.


Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) demonstrate differential endometrial cancer (EC) risk. While tamoxifen (TAM) use increases the risk of endometrial hyperplasia and malignancy, raloxifene (RAL) has neutral effects on the uterus. How TAM increases the risk of EC and why TAM and RAL differentially modulate the risk for EC, however, remain elusive. Here, we tested the hypothesis that TAM increases the risk for EC, at least in part, by enhancing the local estrogen biosynthesis and directing estrogen metabolism towards the formation of genotoxic and hormonally active estrogen metabolites. In addition, the differential effects of TAM and RAL in EC risk are attributed to their differential effect on estrogen metabolism/metabolites. The endometrial cancer cell line (Ishikawa cells) and the nonmalignant immortalized human endometrial glandular cell line (EM1) were used for the study. The profile of estrogen/estrogen metabolites (EM), depurinating estrogen-DNA adducts, and the expression of estrogen-metabolizing enzymes in cells treated with 17β-estradiol (E2) alone or in combination with TAM or RAL were investigated using high performance liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-ESI-MS(2)), ultraperformance liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (UPLC-MS/MS), and Western blot analysis, respectively. TAM significantly increased the total EM and enhanced the formation of hormonally active and carcinogenic estrogen metabolites, 4-hydroxestrone (4-OHE1) and 16α-hydroxyestrone, with concomitant reduction in the formation of antiestrogenic and anticarcinogenic 2-hydroxyestradiol and 2-methoxyestradiol. Furthermore, TAM increased the formation of depurinating estrogen-DNA adducts 4-OHE1 [2]-1-N7Guanine and 4-OHE1 [2]-1-N3 Adenine. TAM-induced alteration in EM and depurinating DNA adduct formation is associated with altered expression of estrogen metabolizing enzymes CYP1A1, CYP1B1, COMT, NQO1, and SF-1 as revealed by Western blot analysis. In contrast to TAM, RAL has minimal effect on EM, estrogen-DNA adduct formation, or estrogen-metabolizing enzymes expression. These data show that TAM perturbs the balance of estrogen-metabolizing enzymes and alters the disposition of estrogen metabolites, which can explain, at least in part, the mechanism for TAM-induced EC. These results also implicate the differential effect of TAM and RAL on estrogen metabolism/metabolites as a potential mechanism for their disparate effects on the endometrium.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma / chemically induced
  • Carcinoma / etiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Adducts / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Combinations
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / chemically induced
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Estradiol / metabolism
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Estrogen Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Estrogen Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Estrogens / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / drug effects
  • Raloxifene Hydrochloride / adverse effects
  • Raloxifene Hydrochloride / pharmacology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators / adverse effects
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators / pharmacology
  • Tamoxifen / adverse effects
  • Tamoxifen / pharmacology*


  • DNA Adducts
  • Drug Combinations
  • Estrogen Antagonists
  • Estrogens
  • Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators
  • Tamoxifen
  • Raloxifene Hydrochloride
  • Estradiol