Unbalanced metabolism of endogenous estrogens in the etiology and prevention of human cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

93 Scopus citations

Abstract

Among the numerous small molecules in the body, the very few aromatic ones include the estrogens and dopamine. In relation to cancer initiation, the estrogens should be considered as chemicals, not as hormones. Metabolism of estrogens is characterized by two major pathways. One is hydroxylation to form the 2- and 4-catechol estrogens, and the second is hydroxylation at the 16α position. In the catechol pathway, the metabolism involves further oxidation to semiquinones and quinones, including formation of the catechol estrogen-3,4-quinones, the major carcinogenic metabolites of estrogens. These electrophilic compounds react with DNA to form the depurinating adducts 4-OHE1(E2)-1-N3Ade and 4-OHE1(E 2)-1-N7Gua. The apurinic sites obtained by this reaction generate the mutations that may lead to the initiation of cancer. Oxidation of catechol estrogens to their quinones is normally in homeostasis, which minimizes formation of the quinones and their reaction with DNA. When the homeostasis is disrupted, excessive amounts of catechol estrogen quinones are formed and the resulting increase in depurinating DNA adducts can lead to initiation of cancer. Substantial evidence demonstrates the mutagenicity of the estrogen metabolites and their ability to induce transformation of mouse and human breast epithelial cells, and tumors in laboratory animals. Furthermore, women at high risk for breast cancer or diagnosed with the disease, men with prostate cancer, and men with non-Hodgkin lymphoma all have relatively high levels of estrogen-DNA adducts, compared to matched control subjects. Specific antioxidants, such as N-acetylcysteine and resveratrol, can block the oxidation of catechol estrogens to their quinones and their reaction with DNA. As a result, the initiation of cancer can be prevented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-180
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Volume125
Issue number3-5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2011

    Fingerprint

Keywords

  • Cancer etiology
  • Cancer prevention
  • Catechol estrogen-3,4-quinones
  • Depurinating estrogen-DNA adducts
  • Estrogen genotoxicity
  • Estrogen mutagenicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology

Cite this