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Concept: Estrogen


Objective To evaluate the strength and validity of the evidence for the association between adiposity and risk of developing or dying from cancer.Design Umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses.Data sources PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and manual screening of retrieved references.Eligibility criteria Systematic reviews or meta-analyses of observational studies that evaluated the association between indices of adiposity and risk of developing or dying from cancer.Data synthesis Primary analysis focused on cohort studies exploring associations for continuous measures of adiposity. The evidence was graded into strong, highly suggestive, suggestive, or weak after applying criteria that included the statistical significance of the random effects summary estimate and of the largest study in a meta-analysis, the number of cancer cases, heterogeneity between studies, 95% prediction intervals, small study effects, excess significance bias, and sensitivity analysis with credibility ceilings.Results 204 meta-analyses investigated associations between seven indices of adiposity and developing or dying from 36 primary cancers and their subtypes. Of the 95 meta-analyses that included cohort studies and used a continuous scale to measure adiposity, only 12 (13%) associations for nine cancers were supported by strong evidence. An increase in body mass index was associated with a higher risk of developing oesophageal adenocarcinoma; colon and rectal cancer in men; biliary tract system and pancreatic cancer; endometrial cancer in premenopausal women; kidney cancer; and multiple myeloma. Weight gain and waist to hip circumference ratio were associated with higher risks of postmenopausal breast cancer in women who have never used hormone replacement therapy and endometrial cancer, respectively. The increase in the risk of developing cancer for every 5 kg/m(2) increase in body mass index ranged from 9% (relative risk 1.09, 95% confidence interval 1.06 to 1.13) for rectal cancer among men to 56% (1.56, 1.34 to 1.81) for biliary tract system cancer. The risk of postmenopausal breast cancer among women who have never used HRT increased by 11% for each 5 kg of weight gain in adulthood (1.11, 1.09 to 1.13), and the risk of endometrial cancer increased by 21% for each 0.1 increase in waist to hip ratio (1.21, 1.13 to 1.29). Five additional associations were supported by strong evidence when categorical measures of adiposity were included: weight gain with colorectal cancer; body mass index with gallbladder, gastric cardia, and ovarian cancer; and multiple myeloma mortality.Conclusions Although the association of adiposity with cancer risk has been extensively studied, associations for only 11 cancers (oesophageal adenocarcinoma, multiple myeloma, and cancers of the gastric cardia, colon, rectum, biliary tract system, pancreas, breast, endometrium, ovary, and kidney) were supported by strong evidence. Other associations could be genuine, but substantial uncertainty remains. Obesity is becoming one of the biggest problems in public health; evidence on the strength of the associated risks may allow finer selection of those at higher risk of cancer, who could be targeted for personalised prevention strategies.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Obesity, Menopause, Estrogen, Colorectal cancer, Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, BRCA2


BACKGROUND: Endocrine disrupting chemicals and carcinogens, some of which may not yet have been classified as such, are present in many occupational environments and could increase breast cancer risk. Prior research has identified associations with breast cancer and work in agricultural and industrial settings. The purpose of this study was to further characterize possible links between breast cancer risk and occupation, particularly in farming and manufacturing, as well as to examine the impacts of early agricultural exposures, and exposure effects that are specific to the endocrine receptor status of tumours. METHODS: 1006 breast cancer cases referred by a regional cancer center and 1146 randomly-selected community controls provided detailed data including occupational and reproductive histories. All reported jobs were industry- and occupation-coded for the construction of cumulative exposure metrics representing likely exposure to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. In a frequency-matched case–control design, exposure effects were estimated using conditional logistic regression. RESULTS: Across all sectors, women in jobs with potentially high exposures to carcinogens and endocrine disruptors had elevated breast cancer risk (OR = 1.42; 95% CI, 1.18-1.73, for 10 years exposure duration). Specific sectors with elevated risk included: agriculture (OR = 1.36; 95% CI, 1.01-1.82); bars-gambling (OR = 2.28; 95% CI, 0.94-5.53); automotive plastics manufacturing (OR = 2.68; 95% CI, 1.47-4.88), food canning (OR = 2.35; 95% CI, 1.00-5.53), and metalworking (OR = 1.73; 95% CI, 1.02-2.92). Estrogen receptor status of tumors with elevated risk differed by occupational grouping. Premenopausal breast cancer risk was highest for automotive plastics (OR = 4.76; 95% CI, 1.58-14.4) and food canning (OR = 5.70; 95% CI, 1.03-31.5). CONCLUSIONS: These observations support hypotheses linking breast cancer risk and exposures likely to include carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, and demonstrate the value of detailed work histories in environmental and occupational epidemiology.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Oncology, Estrogen, Endocrinology, Estrogen receptor, Endocrine system, Endocrine disruptor


Women have elevated rates of thyroid disease compared to men. Environmental toxicants have been implicated as contributors to this dimorphism, including polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), flame retardant chemicals that disrupt thyroid hormone action. PBDEs have also been implicated in the disruption of estrogenic activity, and estrogen levels regulate thyroid hormones. Post-menopausal women may therefore be particularly vulnerable to PBDE induced thyroid effects, given low estrogen reserves. The objective of this study was to test for an association between serum PBDE concentrations and thyroid disease in women from the United States (U.S.), stratified by menopause status.

Concepts: Hormone replacement therapy, Hormone, Menopause, Estrogen, Luteinizing hormone, Thyroid hormone, Flame retardant, Flame retardants


Breast, endometrial, and ovarian cancers share some hormonal and epidemiologic risk factors. While several models predict absolute risk of breast cancer, there are few models for ovarian cancer in the general population, and none for endometrial cancer.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Cancer, Breast cancer, Metastasis, Menopause, Estrogen, BRCA2, BRCA1


Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) reportedly increases the risk of cognitive decline in women over age 65 y. It is unknown whether similar risks exist for recently postmenopausal women, and whether MHT affects mood in younger women. The ancillary Cognitive and Affective Study (KEEPS-Cog) of the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS) examined the effects of up to 4 y of MHT on cognition and mood in recently postmenopausal women.

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Hormone replacement therapy, Decision making, Hormone, Menopause, Estrogen, Luteinizing hormone, Cognition


We show that elevated levels of Ret receptor are found in different sub-types of human breast cancers and that high Ret correlates with decreased metastasis-free survival. The role of Ret in ER+ breast cancer models was explored combining in vitro and in vivo approaches. Our analyses revealed that ligand-induced Ret activation: (i) stimulates migration of breast cancer cells; (ii) rescues cells from anti-proliferative effects of endocrine treatment and (iii) stimulates expression of cytokines in the presence of endocrine agents. Indeed, we uncovered a positive feed-forward loop between the inflammatory cytokine IL6 and Ret that links them at the expression and the functional level. In vivo inhibition of Ret in a metastatic breast cancer model inhibits tumour outgrowth and metastatic potential. Ret inhibition blocks the feed-forward loop by down-regulating Ret levels, as well as decreasing activity of Fak, an integrator of IL6-Ret signalling. Our results suggest that Ret kinase should be considered as a novel therapeutic target in subsets of breast cancer.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Metastasis, Oncology, Cancer staging, Estrogen, Chemotherapy, Cancer support group


Previous research has documented shifts in women’s attractions to their romantic partner and to men other than their partner across the ovulation cycle, contingent on the degree to which her partner displays hypothesized indicators of high-fitness genes. The current study set out to replicate and extend this finding. Forty-one couples in which the woman was naturally cycling participated. Female partners reported their feelings of in-pair attraction and extra-pair attraction on two occasions, once on a low-fertility day of the cycle and once on a high-fertility day of the cycle just prior to ovulation. Ovulation was confirmed using luteinizing hormone tests. We collected two measures of male partner sexual attractiveness. First, the women in the study rated their partner’s sexual attractiveness. Second, we photographed the partners and had the photos independently rated for attractiveness. Shifts in women’s in-pair attractions across the cycle were significantly moderated by women’s ratings of partner sexual attractiveness, such that the less sexually attractive women rated their partner, the less in-pair attraction they reported at high fertility compared with low fertility (partial r = .37, p(dir) = .01). Shifts in women’s extra-pair attractions across the cycle were significantly moderated by third-party ratings of partner attractiveness, such that the less attractive the partner was, the more extra-pair attraction women reported at high relative to low fertility (partial r = -.33, p(dir) = .03). In line with previous findings, we found support for the hypothesis that the degree to which a woman’s romantic partner displays indicators of high-fitness genes affects women’s attractions to their own partner and other men at high fertility.

Concepts: Sexual intercourse, Estrogen, Luteinizing hormone, Menstrual cycle, Woman, Ovulation, Sexuality, Physical attractiveness


Estrogen withdrawal in menopausal women leads to hot flushes, a syndrome characterized by the episodic activation of heat dissipation effectors. Despite the extraordinary number of individuals affected, the etiology of flushes remains an enigma. Because menopause is accompanied by marked alterations in hypothalamic kisspeptin/neurokinin B/dynorphin (KNDy) neurons, we hypothesized that these neurons could contribute to the generation of flushes. To determine if KNDy neurons participate in the regulation of body temperature, we evaluated the thermoregulatory effects of ablating KNDy neurons by injecting a selective toxin for neurokinin-3 expressing neurons [NK(3)-saporin (SAP)] into the rat arcuate nucleus. Remarkably, KNDy neuron ablation consistently reduced tail-skin temperature (T(SKIN)), indicating that KNDy neurons facilitate cutaneous vasodilatation, an important heat dissipation effector. Moreover, KNDy ablation blocked the reduction of T(SKIN) by 17β-estradiol (E(2)), which occurred in the environmental chamber during the light phase, but did not affect the E(2) suppression of T(SKIN) during the dark phase. At the high ambient temperature of 33 °C, the average core temperature (T(CORE)) of ovariectomized (OVX) control rats was significantly elevated, and this value was reduced by E(2) replacement. In contrast, the average T(CORE) of OVX, KNDy-ablated rats was lower than OVX control rats at 33 °C, and not altered by E(2) replacement. These data provide unique evidence that KNDy neurons promote cutaneous vasodilatation and participate in the E(2) modulation of body temperature. Because cutaneous vasodilatation is a cardinal sign of a hot flush, these results support the hypothesis that KNDy neurons could play a role in the generation of flushes.

Concepts: Hypothalamus, Medical terms, Menopause, Estrogen, Thermoregulation, Temperature, Heat, Hot flash


Volumes of paracardial adipose tissue (PAT) and epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) are greater after menopause. Interestingly, PAT but not EAT is associated with estradiol decline, suggesting a potential role of menopause in PAT accumulation. We assessed whether volumes of heart fat depot (EAT and PAT) were associated with coronary artery calcification (CAC) in women at midlife and whether these associations were modified by menopausal status and estradiol levels.

Concepts: Hormone replacement therapy, Coronary artery disease, Middle age, Heart, Menopause, Estrogen, Luteinizing hormone, Menstrual cycle


BACKGROUND: Studies of prenatal exposure to sex steroid hormones predict autistic traits in children at 18 to 24 and at 96 months of age. However, it is not known whether postnatal exposure to these hormones has a similar effect. This study compares prenatal and postnatal sex steroid hormone levels in relation to autistic traits in 18 to 24-month-old children.Fetal testosterone (fT) and fetal estradiol (fE) levels were measured in amniotic fluid from pregnant women (n = 35) following routine second-trimester amniocentesis. Saliva samples were collected from these children when they reached three to four months of age and were analyzed for postnatal testosterone (pT) levels. Mothers were asked to complete the Quantitative Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (Q-CHAT), a measure of autistic traits in children 18 to 24 months old.Finding: fT (but not pT) levels were positively associated with scores on the Q-CHAT. fE and pT levels showed no sex differences and no relationships with fT levels. fT levels were the only variable that predicted Q-CHAT scores. CONCLUSIONS: These preliminary findings are consistent with the hypothesis that prenatal (but not postnatal) androgen exposure, coinciding with the critical period for sexual differentiation of the brain, is associated with the development of autistic traits in 18 to 24 month old toddlers. However, it is recognized that further work with a larger sample population is needed before the effects of postnatal androgen exposure on autistic traits can be ruled out. These results are also in line with the fetal androgen theory of autism, which suggests that prenatal, organizational effects of androgen hormones influence the development of autistic traits in later life.

Concepts: Pregnancy, Hormone, Estrogen, Testosterone, Glucocorticoid, Steroid, Amniotic fluid, Steroid hormone