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Sex hormonal preparations and the liver.

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Academic Department of Medicine, Hippokration General Hospital, Athens, Greece.


The long-term use of oral contraceptives (OCs) may be associated with an increased, though quite small, risk of certain types of liver disease: acute intrahepatic canalicular idiosyncratic cholestasis, benign hepatic tumors (hepatic adenoma, focal nodular hyperplasia, hemangiomas), hepatocellular carcinoma, peliosis hepatis, hepatic vein thrombosis, and portal vein thrombosis. Estrogens have lithogenic properties, as shown by a rise in biliary cholesterol secretion and cholesterol saturation index, yet no substantial increase in the risk of gallstones among estrogen users has been found. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT), given after oophorectomy or menopause, is not associated with clinically significant liver injury. Generally speaking, synthetic sex hormones should not be used in patients with acute and chronic liver disease. A trial of a low-dose estrogen can be instituted under close monitoring for adverse reactions and HRT preparations are not contraindicated in patients with chronic liver disease. Moreover, OCs and HRT can be prescribed quite safely following successful liver transplantation. The incidence of hepatic abnormalities in patients taking androgen hormones is very high. Liver adenomas, cholestasis, peliosis, nodular regenerative hyperplasia and, particularly, hepatocellular carcinoma may complicate long-term use of C17-substituted testosterone and anabolic steroids.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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