Alcohol and oestrogen metabolites in postmenopausal women in the Women's Health Initiative Observational Study

Br J Cancer. 2018 Feb 6;118(3):448-457. doi: 10.1038/bjc.2017.419. Epub 2017 Dec 12.


Background: Alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of several cancers. Potential mechanisms include altered oestrogen metabolism. Parent oestrogens metabolise into alternate pathways of oestrogen metabolites that may have variable effects on cancer pathogenesis. We examined associations of alcohol consumption with circulating oestrogen/oestrogen metabolites in postmenopausal women in the Women's Health Initiative (WHI)-Observational Study (OS).

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of prediagnosis ovarian/endometrial cancer case-control data within WHI-OS (N=1864). Alcohol consumption was measured by validated food frequency questionnaire. Fasting serum parent oestrogens/oestrogen metabolites were assayed using liquid chromatography tandem mass-spectrometry. Geometric mean analyte concentrations (GM, pmol l-1) were calculated by alcohol category using inverse-probability weighted linear regression, adjusting for venepuncture age/year, race, smoking, body mass index, years since menopause, oral contraceptive duration, caffeine intake, and physical activity.

Results: There was evidence for a positive association between alcohol consumption and oestrone, oestradiol and 2-hydroxylation oestrogen metabolite concentrations among menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) users. We observed an association between liquor consumption and parent oestrogens among non-MHT users, who consumed larger doses of liquor than MHT users.

Conclusions: Among postmenopausal women, the association between alcohol intake and parent oestrogen, but not oestrogen metabolite concentrations, may be influenced by MHT and type of alcohol.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / blood*
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Estradiol / blood*
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy
  • Estrogens / blood*
  • Estrogens / metabolism
  • Estrone / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / blood*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Postmenopause / blood
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Estrogens
  • Estrone
  • Estradiol