Circulating sex hormones and tumor characteristics in postmenopausal breast cancer patients. A cross-sectional study

Giorgio Secreto, Elisabetta Meneghini, Elisabetta Venturelli, Patrizia Cogliati, Roberto Agresti, Cristina Ferraris, Massimo Gion, Matelda Zancan, Aline S C Fabricio, Franco Berrino, Adalberto Cavalleri, Andrea Micheli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: To further investigate the role of sex hormones in breast cancer, we assessed the relations of circulating estradiol and testosterone to tumor size and estrogen receptor (ER) status. Method: This was a cross-sectional study including 492 postmenopausal breast cancer patients. The relation of circulating hormones to patient and tumor characteristics was assessed using the Fisher or Cuzick tests. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratios (ORs) of having tumors ≥2 cm (vs trendtrend=0.005). When adjusted for estradiol, the association between testosterone and tumor size was no longer significant. Mean testosterone levels were higher in ER-positive than ER-negative patients (ptrend=0.002), whereas the increase with increasing estradiol quartiles was not significant (P trend=0.07). Conclusion: The association of both hormones with tumor size implies that both are involved in tumor growth, testosterone mainly by conversion to estradiol. The strong association of testosterone with ER contrasts with the weak association of estradiol with ER and confirms testosterone as a marker of hormone-dependent tumors. These findings suggest that testosterone evaluation might be useful to better identify patients with hormone-dependent disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-246
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Biological Markers
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011


  • Biological characteristics
  • Estradiol
  • Postmenopausal breast cancer
  • Sex hormones
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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