Reproductive factors and family history of breast cancer in relation to plasma estrogen and prolactin levels in postmenopausal women in the Nurses' Health Study (United States)

Cancer Causes Control. 1995 May;6(3):217-24. doi: 10.1007/BF00051793.


Parity, age at first birth, age at menarche, and a family history of breast cancer have each been associated consistently with breast cancer risk. Whether this increase in risk is mediated, at least in part, through changes in endogenous hormone levels is unclear. We conducted a cross-sectional study of the relationships between these factors and plasma hormone levels in 216 healthy postmenopausal women in the Nurses' Health Study (United States). The hormones evaluated were estradiol, percent and total free estradiol, percent and total bioavailable estradiol, estrone, estrone sulfate, and prolactin. After controlling for age, body mass index (weight/height2), and alcohol use, we observed inverse associations between estrone sulfate and parity (r = -0.15, P = 0.03) and between percent bioavailable estradiol and age at first birth (r = -0.17, P = 0.02). Although women with a family history of breast cancer tended to have higher estrogen levels compared with women without such history, the differences were not statistically significant. Age at menarche was not related significantly to any of the hormones. These data provide some additional evidence that the inverse relationship observed between parity and breast cancer risk may be mediated, at least in part, through decreased estrogen levels. Our data do not support a substantial influence of either family history of breast cancer or age at menarche on postmenopausal estrogen or prolactin levels.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Estradiol / blood
  • Estrogens / blood*
  • Estrogens, Conjugated (USP) / blood
  • Estrone / analogs & derivatives
  • Estrone / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Age
  • Menarche
  • Middle Aged
  • Parity
  • Postmenopause / blood*
  • Prolactin / blood*
  • Reproductive History*
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Estrogens
  • Estrogens, Conjugated (USP)
  • Estrone
  • Estradiol
  • Prolactin
  • estrone sulfate