Differential effects of oral conjugated estrogens and transdermal estradiol on insulin-like growth factor 1, growth hormone and sex hormone binding globulin serum levels

Gynecol Endocrinol. 1993 Dec;7(4):251-8. doi: 10.3109/09513599309152509.


In postmenopausal women oral ethinylestradiol causes a reduction in circulating insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and an increase in serum growth hormone levels. There are no data on the effect of conjugated estrogens, the preparation most often used in estrogen replacement treatment (ERT), on these parameters. We evaluated serum IGF-1 and growth hormone levels, together with the levels of sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), an indicator of estrogen hepatocellular action, before and after 6 months of ERT in two comparable groups of postmenopausal women. Sixteen women were treated with oral conjugated estrogens, 0.625 mg/day, and 14 with transdermal estradiol, 0.05 mg/day. In the women treated with oral conjugated estrogens, an increase in SHBG (p < 0.001), a decrease in IGF-1 (p < 0.001) and an increase in growth hormone (p < 0.05) serum levels were observed. No such effects were seen with the use of transdermal estradiol, devoid of hepatocellular effects. Undoubtedly, oral conjugated estrogens, 0.625 mg/day, through a hepatocellular effect, cause marked modifications in the IGF-1/growth hormone axis, which may have clinical relevance. For instance, the decreased IGF-1 level, together with the increased level of SHBG, might provide some explanation of the favorable epidemiological data on breast cancer risk in women receiving oral conjugated estrogens.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal / pharmacology*
  • Estradiol / administration & dosage*
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Estrogens, Conjugated (USP) / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Growth Hormone / blood*
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / metabolism*


  • Contraceptives, Oral, Hormonal
  • Estrogens, Conjugated (USP)
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Estradiol
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone