Impacts of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on prostate function and cancer

Environ Res. 2022 Mar;204(Pt B):112085. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2021.112085. Epub 2021 Sep 22.


Because of their historical mode of action, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are associated with sex-steroid receptors, namely the two estrogen receptors (ERα and ERβ) and the androgen receptor (AR). Broadly, EDCs can modulate sex-steroid receptor functions. They can also indirectly impact the androgen and estrogen pathways by influencing steroidogenesis, expression of AR or ERs, and their respective activity as transcription factors. Additionally, many of these chemicals have multiple cellular targets other than sex-steroid receptors, which results in a myriad of potential effects in humans. The current article reviews the association between prostate cancer and the endocrine-disrupting functions of four prominent EDC families: bisphenols, phthalates, phytoestrogens, and mycoestrogens. Results from both in vitro and in vivo models are included and discussed to better assess the molecular mechanisms by which EDCs can modify prostate biology. To overcome the heterogeneity of results published, we established common guidelines to properly study EDCs in the context of endocrine diseases. Firstly, the expression of sex-steroid receptors in the models used must be determined before testing. Then, in parallel to EDCs, pharmacological compounds acting as positive (agonists) and negative controls (antagonists) have to be employed. Finally, EDCs need to be used in a precise range of concentrations to modulate sex-steroid receptors and avoid off-target effects. By adequately integrating molecular endocrinology aspects in EDC studies and identifying their underlying molecular mechanisms, we will truly understand their impact on prostate cancer and distinguish those that favor the progression of the disease from those that slow down tumor development.

Keywords: Bisphenol; Genistein; Phthalate; Phytoestrogen; Steroid.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Endocrine Disruptors* / toxicity
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prostate
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / chemically induced
  • Receptors, Estrogen


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Receptors, Estrogen

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