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Gynecol Endocrinol. 2005 Mar;20(3):176-82.

Effects of hormone replacement therapy on insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I, IGF-II and IGF binding protein (IGFBP)-1 to IGFBP-4: implications for cardiovascular risk.

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  • 1Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, University of Manchester, Salford Royal Hospitals University Trust, Salford, UK.



Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in postmenopausal women is controversial, with an elevated cardiovascular event rate for combined estrogen-progestogen but no adverse cardiovascular effect and possible cumulative benefit for estrogen alone. Here we measured the effects of differing estrogen/progestogen combinations on the insulin-like growth factor (IGF)/IGF binding protein (IGFBP) system which has been implicated in the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying cardiovascular disease, higher IGFBP-1 levels having been linked with a reduced cardiovascular risk.


Oral conjugated equine estrogens (CEE) alone, or in combination with the increasingly androgenic progestogens medroxyprogesterone acetate, desogestrel or norethisterone, were given in a randomized triple crossover fashion to 35 healthy postmenopausal women. Serum concentrations of IGFs and the principal circulating IGFBPs were measured.


Circulating IGF-I, IGFBP-3 and IGF-I/IGFBP-3 molar ratio were significantly reduced by CEE. These effects were reversed by progestogens according to their androgenicity. Plasma IGFBP-1 concentration increased from baseline to CEE alone. This rise was opposed by progestogens of increasing androgenicity. IGFBP-2 levels fell and IGFBP-4 increased with CEE, with no further change with addition of progestogens. CEE increased the proportional contribution of IGFBP-1 and IGFBP-4 to total IGFBP binding and decreased the IGFBP-3 contribution. This was reversed by progestogens.


There are marked changes in molar ratios of the IGFBPs in relation to estrogen/progestogens in HRT. The effect of progestogens on IGF bioavailability could be an important determinant of the longer-term risks of specific HRT preparations by opposing the potentially beneficial effects of CEE alone on cardiovascular risk.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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