Endogenous oestrogens and breast cancer risk in premenopausal and postmenopausal women
Breast cancer risk is strongly related to several reproductive and hormonal factors, but the nature of the effects of endogenous oestrogens has been difficult to establish. Data are now available from several large prospective studies with biobanks of stored serum, enabling better characterization of the associations of endogenous oestrogens, and other endogenous hormones, with breast cancer risk. In postmenopausal women, relatively high serum concentrations of oestradiol are associated with a more than twofold increase in the risk for breast cancer, and this probably explains the increase in risk in obese postmenopausal women. In premenopausal women the data available on oestrogens are more limited and difficult to interpret due to the large variations in endogenous oestrogens during the menstrual cycle, but are compatible with a positive association between oestradiol and breast cancer risk. There is also evidence that breast cancer risk is positively associated with androgens, prolactin and insulin-like growth factor-I. Further data are required, with better assays and repeat measures, to provide more accurate estimates of risk and to clarify the role of oestrogens in premenopausal women and the roles of other endogenous hormones.