Prostate cancer is the primary cancer in males, with increasing global incidence rates making this malignancy a significant healthcare burden. Androgens not only promote normal prostate maturity but also influence the development and progression of prostate cancer. Intriguingly, evidence now suggests endogenous and exogenous oestrogens, in the form of phytoestrogens, may be equally as relevant as androgens in prostate cancer growth. The prostate gland has the molecular mechanisms, catalysed by steroid sulphatase (STS), to unconjugate and utilise circulating oestrogens. Furthermore, prostate tissue also expresses enzymes essential for local oestrogen metabolism, including aromatase (CYP19A1) and 3β- and 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases. Increased expression of these enzymes in malignant prostate tissue compared with normal prostate indicates that oestrogen synthesis is favoured in malignancy and thus may influence tumour progression. In contrast to previous reviews, here we comprehensively explore the epidemiological and scientific evidence on how oestrogens impact prostate cancer, particularly focusing on pre-receptor oestrogen metabolism and subsequent molecular action. We analyse how molecular mechanisms and metabolic pathways involved in androgen and oestrogen synthesis intertwine to alter prostate tissue. Furthermore, we speculate on whether oestrogen receptor status in the prostate affects progression of this malignancy.
Keywords: 17beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase; oestrogen; oestrogen receptor; prostate cancer; steroid sulphatase.
© 2016 Society for Endocrinology.