Hormones and prostate carcinogenesis: Androgens and estrogens

Maarten C Bosland, Abeer M Mahmoud
Department of Pathology, University of Illinois at Chicago 840 South Wood Street Room 130 CSN, MC 847 Chicago, IL 60612, USA.
DOI: 10.4103/1477-3163.90678


Prostate cancer is the leading non-skin malignancy detected in US males and the second cause of death due to male cancer in the US. Androgenic hormones are generally believed to be causatively associated with prostate carcinogenesis, but human evidence, mostly epidemiological, for this is minimal. Circulating hormone levels are not associated with the risk of prostate cancer and neither are polymorphisms in various genes encoding the androgen metabolizing enzymes or androgen receptors. Evidence in support of the involvement of androgens in prostate cancer development is derived from clinical trials with 5α-reductase inhibitors, which reduced the risk by approximately 25%. Animal studies using rat models, however, provide clear evidence that testosterone can induce prostate cancer and can act as a strong tumor promoter in concert with genotoxic carcinogens. One such genotoxic factor may be 17β-estradiol, which is generated from testosterone by the aromatase enzyme. Estradiol can be converted to catecholestrogens, which through redox cycling, generate reactive metabolites that can adduct the DNA and potentially lead to mutations. Animal studies and limited human evidence suggest that estrogens can be involved in prostate carcinogenesis by such a genotoxic mechanism. However, how androgens exert their tumor-promoting effect is not clear. It is likely that hormonal and non-hormonal factors as well as genetic and non-genetic (environmental) factors interact in a highly complex and poorly understood manner to determine the risk of prostate cancer.

Keywords: Adrogens, estrogens, hormonal carcinogenesis, prostate cancer, steroid hormones.