Zearalenone as an endocrine disruptor in humans

Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2016 Dec;48:141-149. doi: 10.1016/j.etap.2016.10.015. Epub 2016 Oct 18.


Zearalenone (ZEA), a fungal mycotoxin, is present in a wide range of human foods. Many animal studies have found ZEA to possess a disruptive effect on the hormonal balance, mainly due to its similarity to naturally-occurring estrogens. With increasing consciousness of the adverse effects of endocrine disruptors on human health, it is becoming more important to monitor ZEA concentrations in food and identify its potential effects on human health. Based on a review of recent studies on animal models and molecular pathways in which ZEA is reported to have an influence on humans, we postulate that ZEA might act as an endocrine disruptor in humans in a similar way to animals. Moreover, its endocrine-disrupting effect might be also a causative factor in carcinogenesis. This review article summarizes the latest knowledge about the influence of ZEA on the human hormonal balance.

Keywords: Endocrine disruptor; Fungal mycotoxin; Hormone balance; Zearalenone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endocrine Disruptors / metabolism
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Food Contamination / analysis*
  • Food Contamination / prevention & control
  • Homeostasis / drug effects
  • Hormones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / chemically induced
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / metabolism
  • Zearalenone / metabolism
  • Zearalenone / toxicity*


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Hormones
  • Zearalenone