Challenges to defining a role for progesterone in breast cancer

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Progesterone is an ovarian steroid hormone that is essential for normal breast development during puberty and in preparation for lactation. The actions of progesterone are primarily mediated by its high affinity receptors, including the classical progesterone receptor (PR) -A and -B isoforms, located in diverse tissues such as the brain where progesterone controls reproductive behavior, and the breast and reproductive organs. Progestins are frequently prescribed as contraceptives or to alleviate menopausal symptoms, wherein progestin is combined with estrogen as a means to block estrogen-induced endometrial growth. Estrogen is undisputed as a potent breast mitogen, and inhibitors of the estrogen receptor (ER) and estrogen producing enzymes (aromatases) are effective first-line cancer therapies. However, PR action in breast cancer remains controversial. Herein, we review existing evidence from in vitro and in vivo models, and discuss the challenges to defining a role for progesterone in breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)914-921
Number of pages8
Issue number9-10
StatePublished - Oct 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Studies on the role of progesterone and breast cancer were funded by NIH/NCI grants (to C.A. Lange) R01 CA123763-10A1 (formerly R01 DK53825) and R21 CA116790-01A1. We thank Andrea Daniel and Douglas Yee for helpful comments.


  • Breast cancer
  • Estrogen
  • Progesterone
  • Protein kinases


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