, Volume 17, Issue 8, pp 1033-1043

Relationship of alcohol intake and sex steroid concentrations in blood in pre- and post-menopausal women: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition

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Abstract

Objective

Women with a moderate intake of alcohol have higher concentrations of sex steroids in serum, and higher risk of developing breast cancer, compared to non-drinkers. In the present study, we investigate the relationships between alcohol consumption and serum levels of sex steroids and sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) in 790 pre- and 1,291 post-menopausal women, who were part of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).

Methods

Serum levels of testosterone (T), androstenedione (Δ4), dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS), estrone (E1), estradiol (E2) and SHBG were measured by direct immunoassays. Free T (fT) and free E2 (fE2) were calculated according to mass action laws. Current alcohol intake exposure to alcohol was assessed from dietary questionnaires.

Results

Pre-menopausal women who consumed more than 25 g/day of alcohol had about 30% higher DHEAS, T and fT, 20% higher Δ4 and about 40% higher E1, concentrations compared to women who were non-consumers. E2, fE2 and SHBG concentrations showed no association with current alcohol intake. In post-menopausal women, DHEAS, fT, T, Δ4, and E1 concentrations were between 10% and 20% higher in women who consumed more than 25 g/day of alcohol compared to non-consumers. E2 or fE2 were not associated with alcohol intake at all. SHBG levels were about 15% lower in alcohol consumers compared to non-consumers.

Conclusion

This study supports the hypothesis of an influence of alcohol intake on sex hormone concentrations in blood.

The EPIC study was funded by ‘‘Europe Against Cancer’’ Programme of the European Commission (SANCO); Ligue contre le Cancer (France); Société 3M (France); Mutuelle Générale de I’Éducation Nationale; Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM); German Cancer Aid; German Cancer Research Center; German Federal Ministry of Education and Research; Danish Cancer Society; Health Research Fund (FIS) of the Spanish Ministry of Health (RCESP-C03/09); the participating regional governments and institutions of Spain; Cancer Research UK; Medical Research Council, UK; the Stroke Association, UK; British Heart Foundation; Department of Health, UK; Food Standards Agency, UK; the Wellcome Trust, UK; Greek Ministry of Health; Greek Ministry of Education; Italian Association for Research on Cancer (AIRC); Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports; Dutch Ministry of Health; Dutch Prevention Funds; LK Research Funds; Dutch ZON (Zorg Onderzoek Nederland); World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF); Swedish Cancer Society; Swedish Scientific Council; Regional Government of Skane, Sweden; Norwegian Cancer Society; Specific study results of this case-control study nested within EPIC, presented in this paper, were obtained with financial support from the National Cancer Institute (USA) [grant nr1U01CA98216-01].