Low-dose effects of hormones and endocrine disruptors

Vitam Horm. 2014;94:129-65. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-800095-3.00005-5.


Endogenous hormones have effects on tissue morphology, cell physiology, and behaviors at low doses. In fact, hormones are known to circulate in the part-per-trillion and part-per-billion concentrations, making them highly effective and potent signaling molecules. Many endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) mimic hormones, yet there is strong debate over whether these chemicals can also have effects at low doses. In the 1990s, scientists proposed the "low-dose hypothesis," which postulated that EDCs affect humans and animals at environmentally relevant doses. This chapter focuses on data that support and refute the low-dose hypothesis. A case study examining the highly controversial example of bisphenol A and its low-dose effects on the prostate is examined through the lens of endocrinology. Finally, the chapter concludes with a discussion of factors that can influence the ability of a study to detect and interpret low-dose effects appropriately.

Keywords: Adverse effect; Chemical mixture; Epidemiology; Estrogen; Guideline study; Intrauterine position; NOAEL; Nonmonotonic dose response; Risk assessment; Xenoestrogen.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomedical Research
  • Ecotoxicology / methods
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Endocrine Glands / drug effects*
  • Endocrine Glands / metabolism
  • Endocrine System Diseases / chemically induced
  • Endocrine System Diseases / metabolism
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Hormones / agonists*
  • Hormones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Research Design


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Hormones