Breast cancer incidence rates are low but rising in urban Mongolia. We collected reproductive and lifestyle factor information and measured anthropometrics and serum sex steroid concentrations among 314 premenopausal women living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Mean differences in hormone concentrations by these factors were calculated using age-adjusted quadratic regression splines. Estrone and estradiol in college-educated women were, respectively, 18.2% (p = 0.03) and 23.6% (p = 0.03) lower than in high-school-educated women. Progesterone concentrations appeared 55.8% lower (p = 0.10) in women residing in modern housing compared with women living in traditional housing (gers), although this finding was not statistically significant. Testosterone concentrations were positively associated with adiposity and central fat distribution % difference for highest vs. lowest quarter for body mass index (17.1% (p = 0.001)) and waist-to-height ratio (15.1% (p = 0.005)). Estrogens were higher in the follicular phase of women who breastfed each child for shorter durations. A distinct hormonal profile was associated with an urban lifestyle in premenopausal, Mongol women. In particular, heavier, more-educated women living in urban dwellings had higher testosterone and lower estrogen and progesterone levels. Higher breast cancer incidence in urban compared with rural women suggest that the hormonal profile associated with a more traditional lifestyle may be protective among Mongol women.
Keywords: Mongolia; breast cancer; estrogen; progesterone; sex steroids; testosterone; urban migration.