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  • Do Progesterone Levels Affect Breast Cancer Risk? - Chromatography Investigates

Do Progesterone Levels Affect Breast Cancer Risk? - Chromatography Investigates

Jun 03 2020

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the UK with almost 1 in 8 women being diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime. With regular screening and checks though, the prognosis for most women is ok if the cancer is caught at an early stage. The exact causes of breast cancer are not known but age, genetics and lifestyle may all play a role in increasing the risk of contracting breast cancer.

One of the risk factors for breast cancer concerns the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Whilst the risk factors associated with taking oestradiol – also known as oestradiol which is an oestrogen steroid hormone and the main female sex hormone – has been investigated and is well known. However, the association between progesterone and breast cancer risk is less well known. A recent study published in the journal Oncology reports on an increased breast cancer risk with elevated progesterone levels. Chromatography analysed the samples.

Regular checks for keeping women safe

It is thought that a quarter of UK breast cancer cases are preventable. And as with many other forms of cancer, early detection and treatment can significantly improve the prognosis. The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump forming in the breast – for this reason it is vital that women check their breasts regularly for any changes.

One of the factors that can increase the risk of contracting breast cancer is increased levels of female hormones. The effects of oestrogen and exogenous progestogen have been studied, but a team from universities in the US have recently evaluated the association between circulating progesterone and progesterone metabolite levels and breast cancer risk in the paper Association of Circulating Progesterone With Breast Cancer Risk Among Postmenopausal Women.

Chromatography helps analyse in the case-cohort study

The authors of the study reported in Oncology studied progesterone and progesterone metabolites in women who were not receiving exogenous hormone therapy at the start of the study. Over twelve years the study participants were followed, and incidence of cancer noted. The progesterone assays were carried out using high-performance liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS). The use of chromatography to quickly analyse samples is discussed in the article, Practical Considerations for High-Throughput Chiral Screening in HPLC and SFC with 3- and Sub-2-µm Particle-Packed Columns.

The authors state that to their knowledge this was the first population-based study to evaluate the levels of progesterone metabolites with post-menopausal breast cancer risk. The data suggests that increased serum progesterone concentrations in post-menopausal women appears to be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. Further research is needed though to evaluate the role of progesterone metabolites and the interaction between progesterone and oestradiol with breast cancer risk.


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