Adiposity and sex hormones in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors

Anne McTiernan, Kumar Rajan, Shelley S. Tworoger, Melinda Irwin, Leslie Bernstein, Richard Baumgartner, Frank Gilliland, Frank Z. Stanczyk, Yutaka Yasui, Rachel Ballard-Barbash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

217 Scopus citations


Purpose: Overweight and obese women with breast cancer have poorer survival compared with thinner women. One possible reason is that breast cancer survivors with higher degrees of adiposity have higher concentrations of tumor-promoting hormones. This study examined the association between adiposity and concentrations of estrogens, androgens, and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) in a population-based sample of postmenopausal women with breast cancer. Methods: We studied the associations between body mass index (BMI), body fat mass, and percent body fat, measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry scan, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip circumference ratio, with concentrations of estrone, estradiol, testosterone, SHBG, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, free estradiol, and free testosterone in 505 postmenopausal women in western Washington and New Mexico with incident stage 0 to IIIA breast cancer. Blood and adiposity measurements were performed between 4 and 12 months after diagnosis. Results: Obese women (BMI ≥ 30) had 35% higher concentrations of estrone and 130% higher concentrations of estradiol compared with lighter-weight women (BMI < 22.0; P = .005 and .002, respectively). Similar associations were observed for body fat mass, percent body fat, and waist circumference. Testosterone concentrations also increased with increasing levels of adiposity (P = .0001). Concentrations of free estradiol and free testosterone were two to three times greater in overweight and obese women compared with lighter-weight women (P = .0001). Conclusion: These data provide information about potential hormonal explanations for the association between adiposity and breast cancer prognosis. These sex hormones may be useful biomarkers for weight loss intervention studies in women with breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1961-1966
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 15 2003
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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