Elevated Aromatase (CYP19A1) Expression Is Associated with a Poor Survival of Patients with Estrogen Receptor Positive Breast Cancer

Horm Cancer. 2018 Apr;9(2):128-138. doi: 10.1007/s12672-017-0317-2. Epub 2018 Jan 23.


Genetic variants in CYP19A1, the gene encoding aromatase, have been reported to be associated with circulating estrogen concentrations, a key risk factor for breast cancer. The mechanism underlying this association is still unclear; it has been suggested that some of these variants may alter the expression and/or activity of aromatase. Here we analyzed the expression of intra-tumoral CYP19A1 messenger RNA (mRNA) and the genotypes of rs10046, a well-characterized single nucleotide polymorphism in CYP19A1, in 138 breast cancer patients and 15 breast cancer cell lines. The genotype TT was detected in 36 patients and six cell lines, genotype CT in 55 patients and five cell lines, and genotype CC in 28 patients and four cell lines. We found no evidence for a significant association of CYP19A1 levels with rs10046 genotypes, although expression tended to be higher in tumors and cell lines with the homozygous risk genotype TT. We also found no evidence for a significant association of rs10046 genotypes with breast cancer prognosis. In contrast, high CYP19A1 expression was highly significantly associated with a poor overall, disease-free, and metastasis-free survival in estrogen receptor-positive but not negative breast cancer patients. Moreover, CYP19A1 mRNA was significantly elevated in postmenopausal patients and in patients older than 50 years, and a trend towards a positive correlation with ER status and ESR1 mRNA expression was observed. These findings highlight the key role of aromatase in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors*
  • Aromatase / genetics*
  • Aromatase / metabolism
  • Austria / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Estrogens / blood*
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Postmenopause
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Risk
  • Survival Analysis


  • Estrogens
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Aromatase
  • CYP19A1 protein, human