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Steroids. 2002 Nov;67(12):979-83.

Regulation of estrogen synthesis in postmenopausal women.

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Endocrinology and Metabolic Medicine, Imperial College School of Medicine, St Mary's Hospital, W2 1NY, London, UK.


The decrease in ovarian estrogen production that occurs at the menopause may lead to an increase in peripheral aromatase activity. While estrogens can have beneficial effects on some body tissues, such as bone and the cardiovascular system, they also have a crucial role in supporting the growth and development of breast tumors. A number of factors, including interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFalpha), and prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)), which can stimulate aromatase activity, have now been identified. As plasma concentrations of some cytokines increase at the menopause, this may account for the increased peripheral aromatase activity that is detected in older women. Macrophages and lymphocytes which infiltrate breast tissue are now thought to be an important source of cytokines that can stimulate aromatase activity in this tissue. Studies, we have recently carried out, have suggested that the endogenous estrogen metabolite, 2-methoxy-estradiol, may be able to modulate the ability of cytokines and PGE(2) to stimulate aromatase activity. Understanding the role of endogenous estrogen metabolites in regulating estrogen synthesis may give rise to new strategies for the prevention or treatment of breast cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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