Relation of serum levels of estrogen and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate to hormone receptor status among postmenopausal women with breast cancer.
ABSTRACT It is hypothesized that breast cancer may consist of heterogeneous diseases with different hormonal environments classified by hormone receptor status. Epidemiologic studies evaluating risk factors for breast cancer by hormone receptor status have supported the hypothesis. However, there are inconsistencies in the risk factor profiles by estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) across the studies. To clarify the heterogeneity of the disease, it is necessary to understand not only risk factor profiles but also the biologic characteristics such as the relationships among endogenous sex hormone levels and hormone receptors.
We measured serum levels of estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in 142 postmenopausal women aged 50 and over with primary breast cancer who had undergone surgical treatment, and investigated the heterogeneity in the relations of endogenous sex hormone levels to hormone receptor status, using the case-series study method. Subjects were categorized into 3 classes based on tertiles of each hormone level in receptor-negative subjects, and odds ratios (ORs) for receptor-positive status compared with receptor-negative status were computed, taking the lowest category as a reference category.
There were clear trends toward higher serum levels of E1, E2, and DHEAS in women with PR+ cancer. The case-series approach revealed that PR+ status might be strongly associated with serum sex hormone levels. In particular, the OR of PR+ was large for a high DHEAS level (OR for the highest category=4.28). No significant association between serum hormone levels and ER status was observed.
The association of serum sex hormone levels with hormone receptor status may differ by PR status, but not by ER status. This finding suggests that PR status may be related to the heterogeneity in hormonal environments associated with breast cancer risk.