Progestins and progesterone in hormone replacement therapy and the risk of breast cancer.
Controlled studies and most observational studies published over the last 5 years suggest that the addition of synthetic progestins to estrogen in hormone replacement therapy (HRT), particularly in continuous-combined regimen, increases the breast cancer (BC) risk compared to estrogen alone. By contrast, a recent study suggests that the addition of natural progesterone in cyclic regimens does not affect BC risk. This finding is consistent with in vivo data suggesting that progesterone does not have a detrimental effect on breast tissue. The increased BC risk found with the addition of synthetic progestins to estrogen could be due to the regimen and/or the kind of progestin used. Continuous-combined regimen inhibits the sloughing of mammary epithelium that occurs after progesterone withdrawal in a cyclic regimen. More importantly, the progestins used (medroxyprogesterone acetate and 19-Nortestosterone-derivatives) are endowed with some non-progesterone-like effects, which can potentiate the proliferative action of estrogens. Particularly relevant seem to be the metabolic and hepatocellular effects (decreased insulin sensitivity, increased levels and activity of insulin-like growth factor-I, and decreased levels of SHBG), which contrast the opposite effects induced by oral estrogen.
J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Jul;96(2):95-108
The case for progesterone.
Recent clinical trials in hormone therapy (HT) for women approaching or past menopause have been disappointing. Most women who have been taking conjugated equine estrogens combined with synthetic progestins have been encouraged to stop these supplements because of increased health risks. The results of the clinical trials may be accurate about the risks associated with the synthetic compounds and combinations, but the data do not reflect what might have been the case if 17beta-estradiol had been tested with natural progesterone instead of synthetic medroxyprogesterone acetate. For the most part, in almost all work on HT, estrogens have been given the primary focus despite the fact that progesterone has important properties that can enhance the repair of neurodegenerative and traumatic injuries to the central nervous system. This article reviews some of those properties and discusses the evidence suggesting that, if HT is to be reconsidered, progesterone should be given more attention as a potent neurotrophic agent that may play an important role in reducing or preventing motor, cognitive, and sensory impairments that can accompany senescence in both males and females.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Jun;1052:152-69
Neuroactive steroids: mechanisms of action and neuropsychopharmacological properties.
Steroids influence neuronal function through binding to cognate intracellular receptors which may act as transcription factors in the regulation of gene expression. In addition, certain so-called neuroactive steroids modulate ligandgated ion channels via non-genomic mechanisms. Especially distinct 3alpha-reduced metabolites of progesterone and deoxycorticosterone are potent positive allosteric modulators of gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABA(A)) receptors. However, also classical steroid hormones such as 17beta-estradiol, testosterone and progesterone are neuroactive steroids because they may act as functional antagonists at the 5-hydroxytryptamine type 3 (5-HT(3)) receptor, a ligand-gated ion channel or distinct glutamate receptors. A structure-activity relationship for the actions of a variety of steroids at the 5-HT(3) receptor was elaborated that differed considerably from that known for GABA(A) receptors. Although a bindings site for steroids at GABA(A) receptors is still a matter of debate, meanwhile there is also evidence that steroids interact allosterically with ligandgated ion channels at the receptor membrane interface. On the other hand, also 3alpha-reduced neuroactive steroids may regulate gene expression via the progesterone receptor after intracellular oxidation into 5alpha-pregnane steroids. Animal studies showed that progesterone is converted rapidly into GABAergic neuroactive steroids in vivo. Progesterone reduces locomotor activity in a dose-dependent fashion in male Wistar rats. Moreover, progesterone and 3alpha-reduced neuroactive steroids produce a benzodiazepine-like sleep EEG profile in rats and humans. During major depression, there is a disequilibrium of such 3alpha-reduced neuroactive steroids which is corrected by successful treatment with antidepressant drugs. Neuroactive steroids may further be involved in the treatment of depression and anxiety with antidepressants in patients during ethanol withdrawal. Studies in patients with panic disorder suggest that neuroactive steroids may also play a role in modulating human anxiety. Both the genomic and non-genomic effects of steroids in the brain may contribute to the pathophysiology of psychiatric disorders and the mechanisms of action of antidepressants. Neuroactive steroids affect a broad spectrum of behavioral functions through their unique molecular properties and may represent a new treatment strategy for neuropsychiatric disorders.
Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2003 Feb; 28(2):139-68
Role of progesterone and other neuroactive steroids in anxiety disorders.
It remains unexplained why a greater prevalence of anxiety disorders exists in women than in men, and how female hormone-related events (i.e., menstrual cycle and postpartum) can influence the course of anxiety disorders. It would appear logical that female hormones and their derivatives play a major role in these observations. The abundance of preclinical data demonstrating a role for sex hormones and their derivatives in anxiety-like behavior is in contrast to the relative paucity of experimental clinical data on the role of female hormones and neuroactive steroids in anxiety disorders. There is a dramatic potential for therapeutic anxiolytic activity of pharmacological compounds derived from powerful anxiolytic agents, such as the progesterone derivative, allopregnanolone. As a result, there is currently tremendous interest from the pharmaceutical industry in developing and testing such agents in anxiety disorders.
Expert Rev Neurother. 2004 Sep;4(5):851-60
Differential regulation of glucose transporter expression by estrogen and progesterone in Ishikawa endometrial cancer cells.
Estrogen replacement therapy and other unopposed estrogen treatments increase the incidence of endometrial abnormalities, including cancer. However, this effect is counteracted by the co-administration of progesterone. In the endometrium, glucose transporter (GLUT) expression and glucose transport are known to fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle. Here, we determined the effect of estrogen and progesterone on the expression of GLUT1-4 and on the transport of deoxyglucose in Ishikawa endometrial cancer cells. Cells were incubated with estrogen, progesterone or combined estrogen and progesterone for 24 h and the effect on the expression of GLUT1-4 and on deoxyglucose transport was determined. We show that GLUT1 expression is upregulated by estrogen and progesterone individually, but that combined estrogen and progesterone treatment reverses this increase. Hormonal treatments do not affect GLUT2, GLUT3 or GLUT4 expression. Transport studies demonstrate that estrogen increases deoxyglucose transport at Michaelis-Menten constants (Kms) corresponding to GLUT1/4, an effect which disappears when progesterone is added concomitantly. These data demonstrate that different hormonal treatments differentially regulate GLUT expression and glucose transport in this endometrial cancer cell line. This regulation mirrors the role played by estrogen and progesterone on the incidence of cancer in this tissue and suggests that GLUT1 may be utilized by endometrial cancer cells to fuel their demand for increased energy requirement.
J Endocrinol. 2004 Sep;182(3):467-78
Testosterone replacement-induced hyperprolactinaemia: case report and review of the literature.
Half of all men with prolactin (PRL)-producing macroadenomas present with hypogonadism, decreased libido and impotence, and therefore require testosterone replacement. However, very little is known about the effect of testosterone on prolactinomas. We report a case of an 18-year-old obese man who presented with hypogonadism and hyperprolactinaemia and underwent a transphenoidal hypophysectomy after a computer tomography scan showed the presence of a suprasellar macroadenoma. On separate occasions, we documented a rise in PRL when testosterone replacement was started and a fall in PRL when testosterone replacement was stopped (r = 0.6090, P = 0.0095). Furthermore, imaging studies suggested the possibility of tumour re-growth after testosterone therapy. We hypothesize that the exogenous testosterone was aromatized to oestradiol, which stimulated the release of PRL by the anterior pituitary. This was supported by the increase in oestradiol levels after testosterone replacement, although statistical significance was not achieved due to the availability of only a few data points. This case highlights the need to be aware of testosterone- replacement-induced hyperprolactinaemia, an under-recognized complication of androgen replacement in this setting. The use of aromatase inhibitors together with testosterone-replacement therapy or the use of non-aromatizable androgens might be indicated in such patients. Taken together, this report and previous studies show that dopamine agonists apparently do not suppress the hyperprolactinaemia induced by testosterone replacement.
Ann Clin Biochem. 2005 Mar;42(Pt 2):153-9
Preventing diseases of the prostate in the elderly using hormones and nutriceuticals.
The prostate has only one function, namely to secrete fluid containing substances that are needed for reproduction. This requires an extremely high concentration of androgens in the tissues. Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) seems to be related to the long-term exposure of the prostate to the strong androgen 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and, possibly, to estrogens. The relation between prostate cancer and androgens is suggested to be U-shaped, with both extremes of androgen concentrations being associated with increased risk of invasive cancer. In the treatment of patients with BPH, the lipidic liposterolic extracts of Serenoa repens were as effective as the pharmaceutical inhibitors of the 5alpha-reductase enzyme or alpha1-adrenergic blockers in relieving urinary symptoms. In addition to moderately inhibiting the 5alpha-reductase activity, Serenoa seems to exert antiinflammatory and complementary cellular actions with beneficial effects on the prostate. Unlike the pharmaceutical 5alpha-reductase inhibitors, finasteride and dutasteride, Serenoa does not suppress serum PSA, facilitating the followup and the early detection of prostate cancer. We suggest a strategy to prevent prostate cancer that aims at providing men with partial androgen deficiency correct testosterone substitution with a sustained release buccal bio-adhesive tablet. In addition, food supplementation with extracts of Serenoa repens and a combination of the antioxidants selenium, (cis)-lycopene and natural vitamin E, together with fish oil rich in long-chain polyunsaturated essential fatty acids of the omega-3 group seems warranted. Clearly, a holistic approach including careful clinical and biological monitoring of the aging man and his prostate remains mandatory.
Aging Male. 2004 Jun;7(2):155-69