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J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2014 Jul;19(2):229-39. doi: 10.1007/s10911-014-9324-x. Epub 2014 Jul 4.

Hormonal regulation of the immune microenvironment in the mammary gland.

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Discipline of Surgery, School of Medicine, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, University of Adelaide, DX465702, 28 Woodville Road, Woodville, SA, 5011, Australia.


It is well established that the development and homeostasis of the mammary gland are highly dependent upon the actions of ovarian hormones progesterone and estrogen, as well as the availability of prolactin for the pregnant and lactating gland. More recently it has become apparent that immune system cells and cytokines play essential roles in both mammary gland development as well as breast cancer. Here, we review hormonal effects on mammary gland biology during puberty, menstrual cycling, pregnancy, lactation and involution, and dissect how hormonal control of the immune system may contribute to mammary development at each stage via cytokine secretion and recruitment of macrophages, eosinophils, mast cells and lymphocytes. Collectively, these alterations may create an immunotolerant or inflammatory immune environment at specific developmental stages or phases of the menstrual cycle. Of particular interest for further research is investigation of the combinatorial actions of progesterone and estrogen during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and key developmental points where the immune system may play an active role both in mammary development as well as in the creation of an immunotolerant environment, thereby affecting breast cancer risk.

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