Endogenous oestrogens and androgens in normal and malignant endometrial and mammary tissues

Eur J Cancer Clin Oncol. 1989 Dec;25(12):1953-9. doi: 10.1016/0277-5379(89)90377-5.


Because of a well-established mechanism of action, tissue concentrations of steroid hormones are thought to be more closely related than blood levels to the biological effects exerted by these hormones. The results of studies on oestrogen and androgen concentrations in malignant and normal breast tissues are presented. Normal fatty and epithelial breast tissues and malignant tumour samples which had been obtained from pre- and postmenopausal women of two countries (Poland and The Netherlands) differing in the incidence of this malignancy were studied. In both countries highly comparable oestradiol concentrations in the breast were found. The median hormone levels in tumour tissue of 0.65 pmol/g tissue did not change with age. They were significantly higher than in normal epithelial (0.48 and 0.25 pmol/g in pre- and postmenopausal women) and fatty tissues (0.54 and 0.19 pmol/g respectively). Particularly in postmenopausal women, hormone levels in tumour tissue were much higher than plasma concentrations, which are comparable in both populations. Oestrone levels decreased with age in normal and malignant breast tissues. In both countries median levels in normal and fatty tissues of premenopausal women were similar (1.10 pmol/g tissue) but higher than those in postmenopausal patients (0.45 pmol/g tissue. Significantly lower levels were found in the malignant tissue samples of Polish premenopausal women (0.70 pmol/g) than in Dutch women (1.05 pmol/g); similarly, after menopause the tissue concentrations were higher in Dutch (0.55 pmol/g) than in Polish (0.31 pmol/g) patients. Thus lower oestrone tissue levels were observed in tumours from the country with the lower incidence for breast cancer. In a comparable study of uterine tissues, obtained from pre- and postmenopausal women, higher oestradiol concentrations than in the breast were found, whereas estrone levels were very similar. The levels in the uterus did not correlate with those in the plasma; no relation with histology was observed. The results of androgen measurements in breast tissues were in agreement with the concept that, particularly, androstenedione and testosterone could play a role as substrates for local aromatization. Lower concentrations were observed in the tumours than in the normal and fatty tissues. More extensive investigations will be needed to clarify the role of local formation (aromatization, hydrolysis by sulphatase) of oestrogens in tissues and of the interconversion of less active (oestrone) to more active (oestradiol) oestrogens.

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / analysis*
  • Breast / analysis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / analysis*
  • Endometrium / analysis*
  • Estradiol / analysis
  • Estrogens / analysis*
  • Estrone / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menopause / metabolism
  • Reference Values
  • Uterine Neoplasms / analysis*


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Estrone
  • Estradiol