Estrogen May Help Promote Lung Cancer

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New research indicates that estrogen may help promote lung cancer. More specifically, when estrogen and tobacco smoke get together, the relationship is not a positive one. Scientists at Fox Chase Cancer Center have reported that estrogen is converted into toxic substances in the mouse lung, and these toxin levels increased when they were exposed to tobacco smoke, leading the way to lung cancer.

News of this discovery, which was presented at the American Association of Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2012 on April 3, also has an upside. According to Jing Peng, PhD, one of the study’s authors, “This research provides the link between estrogen and tobacco smoke.”

This is important because, as Peng explained, scientists can use this information to develop therapies that prevent estrogen from being converted into toxins, which could help prevent or treat lung cancer. Estrogen can also play a role in prostate cancer and prostate growth, and it is critical for men to maintain a proper ratio of testosterone to estrogen (estradiol) to help prevent these disorders in the prostate gland.

In the new study, the investigators found high levels of estrogen metabolites called 4-hydroxy-estrogens (4-OHEs) in the lungs of healthy mice. They exposed these cancer-causing metabolites to tobacco smoke for 8 weeks, and 4-OHE levels rose. “We believe that these metabolites of estrogen can damage cells and contribute to lung cancer,” noted Margie L. Clapper, PhD, a co-author of the study.


Fox Chase Cancer Center. Scientists at Fox Chase discover link between estrogen and tobacco smoke. 2012 Apr 3