Menopause is a determinant of breast aromatase expression and its associations with BMI, inflammation, and systemic markers

Kristy A. Brown, Neil M. Iyengar, Xi Kathy Zhou, Ayca Gucalp, Kotha Subbaramaiah, Hanhan Wang, Dilip D Giri, Monica Morrow, Domenick J. Falcone, Nils K. Wendel, Lisle A. Winston, Michael Pollak, Anneloor Dierickx, Clifford A. Hudis, Andrew J. Dannenberg

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70 Citations (Scopus)


Context: Most estrogen-dependent breast cancers occur after menopause, despite low levels of circulating estrogens. Breast expression of the estrogen-biosynthetic enzyme, aromatase, is proposed to drive breast cancer development after menopause. However, the effects of menopause on breast aromatase expression are unknown. Objective: To determine the effect ofmenopause on breast aromatase expression in relation to bodymass index (BMI), white adipose tissue inflammation (WATi), and systemic markers of metabolic dysfunction. Design, Setting, and Participants: Cross-sectional study of 102 premenopausal (age 27 to 56) and 59 postmenopausal (age 45 to 74) women who underwent mastectomy for breast cancer treatment/prevention. Outcome: Breast tissue was assessed for the presence of crown-like structures and the expression and activity of aromatase. Systemic markers examined include interleukin (IL)-6, insulin, glucose, leptin, adiponectin, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), cholesterol, and triglycerides. Multivariable analysis was performed for aromatase messenger RNA (mRNA) in relation to BMI, WATi, and blood markers. Results: Postmenopausal women had higher BMI and more breast WATi than premenopausalwomen. Fasting levels of IL-6, glucose, leptin, hsCRP, and homeostaticmodel assessment 2 insulin resistance score were higher in the postmenopausal group. BMIwas positively correlated with aromatasemRNA in both pre- A nd postmenopausal women. Aromatase levels were higher in breast tissue of postmenopausal women, with levels being higher in inflamed vs noninflamed, independent of BMI. Adipocyte diameter and levels of leptin, hsCRP, adiponectin, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol were more strongly correlated with aromatase in postmenopausal than premenopausal women. Conclusions: Elevated aromatase in the setting of adipose dysfunction provides a possible mechanism for the higher incidence of hormone-dependent breast cancer in obese women after menopause.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1692-1701
Number of pages10
JournalThe Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

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