Objective: To compare the endocrine status of patients with prostate cancer with that of age-matched healthy controls.
Patients, subjects and methods: Basal serum concentrations of sex steroids, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and gonadotrophins, and the basal levels and response to adreno-corticotropic hormone (ACTH) of adrenocortical steroids, were measured before treatment in 72 patients with prostate cancer and in 42 age-matched healthy controls.
Results: Patients aged < 60 years with prostate cancer had significantly elevated levels of total testosterone and unconjugated (E1) and total (tE1) oestrone while patients aged > or = 60 years had significantly elevated levels of total and non-SHBG-bound testosterone (NST). 17 alpha-hydroxyprogesterone and tE1. Gonadotrophins, SHBG levels and relationships between total testosterone and SHBG were normal in both age groups of patients, as were basal levels and ACTH-induced increments of adrenocortical steroids. The patients had normal age-related variations in SHBG and NST and in basal levels and ACTH-induced increments of adrenocortical steroids. There was a significant age-related increase in serum E1 in the control subjects but not in the patients. Patients with metastatic disease had significantly lower tE1 levels than had patients without metastases.
Conclusions: The results suggest an increased sensitivity of the testis to gonadotrophic stimulation, as well as an increased peripheral oestrogen synthesis in patients with prostate cancer, the latter being most pronounced in younger subjects. Men developing prostate cancer may have been exposed to a combination of elevated endogenous oestrogen and androgen levels for a long time. These findings support the theory of a synergism between oestrogens and androgens as an important factor in the aetiology of prostate cancer.