Roles of androgens in the development, growth, and carcinogenesis of the mammary gland

Dezhong J. Liao, Robert B. Dickson

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144 Scopus citations


Androgens influence the development and growth of the mammary gland in women. Treatment of animals and cultured cells with androgens has either inhibitory or stimulatory effects on the proliferation of mammary epithelia and cancer cells; the mechanisms for these dual functions are still not very clear and are discussed in this review. Epidemiological data suggest that, similar to increased estrogens, elevated androgens in serum may be associated with the development of breast cancer. Experiments in rodents have also shown that simultaneous treatment of androgen and estrogen synergizes for mammary gland carcinogenesis. Similar synergistic effects of both hormones have been observed for carcinogenesis of the uterine myometrium of female animals and for carcinogenesis of the prostate and deferens of males. There are also clinical and experimental indications for a possible association of elevated levels of both androgens and estrogens with the development of ovarian and endometrial cancers. A hypothesis is thus proposed that concomitant elevation in both androgens and estrogens may confer a greater risk for tumorigenesis of the mammary gland, and probably other female reproductive tissues than an elevation of each hormone alone.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-189
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Postmenopause
  • Premenopause


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