Oestradiol and testosterone blood levels in patients with viral cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma

Sandro Pignata, Bruno Daniele, Maria G. Galati, Giuseppe Esposito, Paolo Vallone, Francesco Fiore, Paolo Ricchi, Mario Pergola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Patients with alcoholic cirrhosis show hypogonadism and feminization associated with sex hormone imbalance due to enhanced aromatization of testosterone and subsequent reduced testosterone and increased oestradiol blood levels. Because oestrogens modulate hepatocyte proliferation and oestrogen receptors are present in liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, it has been proposed that sex hormone imbalance can play a role in liver carcinogenesis. Trials with the oestrogen receptor antagonist tamoxifen have been performed with conflicting results. Objectives: To investigate oestradiol and testosterone blood levels in men with viral cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma and also to investigate changes hormone circulating levels induced by tamoxifen treatment. Patients and methods: Oestradiol and testosterone blood levels were evaluated in 32 male patients with postviral cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma at the time of diagnosis and during the follow-up, and in 20 healthy controls. In eight patients, hormone levels were also assayed during treatment with tamoxifen (40 mg/day). No patient had a history of high alcohol intake. Results: Oestradiol values observed at the time of diagnosis were 56.1 ± 54.5 pmol/l, while testosterone values were 13.6 ± 8.0 pmol/l. There was no relationship between oestrogen values and age, while higher oestradiol values were observed in patients with advanced cirrhosis (Child B and C); conversely, testosterone levels progressively and significantly decreased from cirrhosis Child A (15.1 ± 9.7) to C (7.7 ± 7.1) (P <0.05). Tamoxifen treatment (40 mg/day) for 1 month in eight patients increased oestradiol values (62.2 ± 77.0 vs. 156.4 ± 83 pmol/l, P <0.05), while testosterone levels decreased (15.1 ± 6.8 vs. 8.5 ± 10.6 pmol/l). However, these changes were not associated with clinical signs or symptoms of feminization. Oestrogen levels decreased after 6 months of tamoxifen treatment. No significant change in hormone levels was observed in patients not treated with tamoxifen. Unlike patients with alcoholic cirrhosis, in male patients with viral cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma there were no significant alterations in blood oestradiol and testosterone levels, although a certain degree of sex hormone imbalance was observed in those with advanced cirrhosis. Treatment with tamoxifen (40 mg/day) did not induce clinical manifestations of sex hormone imbalance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-286
Number of pages4
JournalEuropean Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1997


  • Hepatocellular carcinoma
  • Sex hormones
  • Tamoxifen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology


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