Estrogen: The necessary evil for human health, and ways to tame it

Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Jun:102:403-411. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2018.03.078. Epub 2018 Mar 22.


Estrogen is a pivotal enzyme for survival and health in both genders, though their quantum, tropism, tissue-specific distribution, and receptor affinity varies with different phases of life. Converted from androgen via aromatase enzyme, this hormone is indispensable to glucose homeostasis, immune robustness, bone health, cardiovascular health, fertility, and neural functions. However, estrogen is at the center of almost all human pathologies as well-infectious, autoimmune, metabolic to degenerative. Both hypo and hyper level of estrogen has been linked to chronic and acute diseases. While normal aging is supposed to lower its level, leading to tissue degeneration (bone, muscle, neural etc.), and metabolite imbalance (glucose, lipid etc.), the increment in inflammatory agents in day-to-day life are enhancing the estrogen (or estrogen mimic) level, fueling 'estrogen dominance'. The resultant excess estrogen is inducing an overexpression of estrogen receptors (ERα and ERβ), harming tissues, leading to autoimmune diseases, and neoplasms. The unprecedented escalation in the polycystic ovary syndrome, infertility, breast cancer, ovary cancer, and gynecomastia cases are indicating that this sensitive hormone is getting exacerbated. This critical review is an effort to analyze the dual, and opposing facets of estrogen, via understanding its crosstalk with other hormones, enzymes, metabolites, and drugs. Why estrogen level correction is no trivial task, and how it can be restored to normalcy by a disciplined lifestyle with wise dietary and selective chemical usage choices has been discussed. Overall, our current state of knowledge does not disclose the full picture of estrogen's pleiotropic importance. Hence, this review should be a resource for general public as well as researchers to work in that direction.

Keywords: Aromatase; Breast cancer; Estrogen; Estrogen receptors; Inflammation; Ovarian cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism


  • Estrogens
  • Receptors, Estrogen