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Higher estrogen production in the breast could confer greater cancer risk than thought
Date:8/12/2011

Washington, DC Could some women who naturally produce excess aromatase in their breasts have an increased risk of developing breast cancer? Results of a new animal study suggests that may be the case, say researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, a part of Georgetown University Medical Center.

In the issue of August 15 Cancer Research, the investigators say their mice study shows that overproduction of aromatase, which converts testosterone into estrogen, in breast tissue is even more important in pushing breast cancer development than excess production of the estrogen receptor that the hormone uses to activate mammary cells. In addition, the researchers found that aromatase over-expressing mice also expressed more estrogen receptors on the breast cells.

While current breast cancer therapies target both of those processes inhibition of aromatase and inactivation of the estrogen receptor the researchers say this study suggests that aromatase inhibitors may prove to be a more potent choice for cancer prevention in postmenopausal women. Tamoxifen and other drugs that block the estrogen receptor have long been used to prevent breast cancer and deter recurrence, while aromatase inhibitors are only now being studied as a protectant.

"We know that estrogen is the fuel that most breast tumors use to grow, and this study shows us that making more estrogen in the breast, right next to cells that can use the hormone as fuel, appears to be a key trigger of early breast cancer," says the study's senior investigator, Priscilla Furth, M.D., professor of oncology and medicine at Georgetown Lombardi.

The study also reached another important conclusion, says Edgar Daz-Cruz, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher working in the Furth laboratory and first author of the study.

"This study appears to help inform a longstanding controversy about whether it is systemic estrogen or estrogen produced in the breast t
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Contact: Karen Mallet
km463@georgetown.edu
Georgetown University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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