Estrogen-regulated non-reproductive behaviors and breast cancer risk: Animal models and human studies

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16 Scopus citations


The possible role of personality patterns and psychosocial factors in breast cancer has been studied extensively, through both human and animal experiments. The data are conflicting, and the conclusions controversial. This review will serve two purposes. First, we present evidence that behavioral patterns most commonly linked to breast cancer risk are at least partly regulated by estrogens. This section will suggest that some estrogen-regulated behaviors may be markers of increased breast cancer risk. Second, we will briefly review recent findings in animals connecting psychosocial factors to cancer. We also will address the plausible biological mechanisms. The literature suggests that estrogens, particularly when exposure occurs during the critical developmental periods, such as in utero, puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, influence affective behaviors and increase breast cancer risk. The affective behaviors include depression, aggression, and alcohol intake. Thus, psychosocial and personality factors do not necessarily have a direct impact on breast cancer risk; instead, estrogens have a dual effect on behavior and on the breast.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-159
Number of pages17
JournalBreast Cancer Research and Treatment
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggression
  • Alcohol intake
  • Breast cancer
  • Cognitive functions
  • Depression
  • Estrogens
  • Stress

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