Circulating prolactin levels and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer

Tess V. Clendenen, Alan A. Arslan, Anna E. Lokshin, Mengling Liu, Eva Lundin, Karen L. Koenig, Franco Berrino, Goran Hallmans, Annika Idahl, Vittorio Krogh, Annekatrin Lukanova, Adele Marrangoni, Paola Muti, Brian M. Nolen, Nina Ohlson, Roy E. Shore, Sabina Sieri, Anne Zeleniuch-Jacquotte

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Indirect evidence from experimental and epidemiological studies suggests that prolactin may be involved in ovarian cancer development. However, the relationship between circulating prolactin levels and risk of ovarian cancer is unknown. Methods: We conducted a nested case-control study of 230 cases and 432 individually matched controls within three prospective cohorts to evaluate whether pre-diagnostic circulating prolactin is associated with subsequent risk of ovarian cancer. We also assessed whether lifestyle and reproductive factors are associated with circulating prolactin among controls. Results: Prolactin levels were significantly lower among post- versus pre-menopausal women, parous versus nulliparous women, and past versus never users of oral contraceptives in our cross-sectional analysis of controls. In our nested case-control study, we observed a non-significant positive association between circulating prolactin and ovarian cancer risk (ORQ4vsQ1 1.56, 95 % CI 0.94, 2.63, p trend 0.15). Our findings were similar in multivariate-adjusted models and in the subgroup of women who donated blood ≥5 years prior to diagnosis. We observed a significant positive association between prolactin and risk for the subgroup of women with BMI ≥25 kg/m2 (ORQ4vsQ1 3.10, 95 % CI 1.39, 6.90), but not for women with BMI 2 (OR Q4vsQ1 0.81, 95 % CI 0.40, 1.64). Conclusions: Our findings suggest that prolactin may be associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer, particularly in overweight/obese women. Factors associated with reduced risk of ovarian cancer, such as parity and use of oral contraceptives, were associated with lower prolactin levels, which suggests that modulation of prolactin may be a mechanism underlying their association with risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)741-748
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Causes and Control
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • Ovarian cancer
  • Plasma
  • Prolactin
  • Serum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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