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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 Jun-Jul;105(1-5):1-15. Epub 2007 May 17.

Androgens and androgen receptors in breast cancer.

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Instituto Canario de Investigación del Cáncer, Canary Islands, Spain.


Aromatase (CYP19) converts adrenal and ovarian androgens into estrogens, which supports the growth of estrogen-dependent breast cancers. Anti-aromatase agents are displacing antiestrogens as the first-line treatment for estrogen receptor positive breast cancers. Androgens can act as estrogen precursors, but besides this capability they can also directly act on breast cancer cells by binding to androgen receptors, which are present in the majority of breast cancer specimens. Epidemiological and clinical evidences suggest that higher levels of circulating androgen increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Androgen receptor gene polymorphisms which render the more transcriptionally active receptors have been related to a lower risk of breast cancer. It is currently accepted that androgens act as antiproliferative agents in the presence of estrogens in some breast cancer cell lines. However, emerging evidence suggests that direct androgenic activity might also stimulate cell growth in a subset of estrogen-resistant breast tumors. Here we discuss the supporting evidence which proposes that androgens themselves are actively involved in breast carcinogenesis and its clinical behaviour.

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