Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 689–695 | Cite as

Placental characteristics as a proxy measure of serum hormone and protein levels during pregnancy with a male fetus

  • Britton TrabertEmail author
  • Matthew P. Longnecker
  • Barry I. Graubard
  • Mark A. Klebanoff
  • Frank Z. Stanczyk
  • Katherine A. McGlynn
Original paper



In utero exposure to steroid hormones may be related to risk of some cancers such as testicular germ cell tumors (TGCT). To determine whether placental characteristics are good surrogate measures of maternal biomarker levels, we evaluated the correlations in mothers of sons at higher (whites, n = 150) and lower (blacks, n = 150) risk of TGCT. Associations with birth weight were also examined.


All mothers, participants in the Collaborative Perinatal Project, were primigravidas who gave birth to male singletons. Associations between placental weight and placental thickness and third-trimester biomarker levels were evaluated using linear regression. Partial correlation coefficients for placental characteristics and birth weight were also estimated.


Placental weight was positively correlated with alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), testosterone, estradiol and estriol in whites, and AFP and estriol in blacks. Placental thickness was not associated with any biomarker. After adjustment for placental weight, birth weight was not correlated with any biomarker.


In these data, placental weight was modestly correlated with third-trimester biomarker level; however, it appeared to be a better surrogate for third-trimester biomarker level than birth weight. Placental thickness had limited utility as a surrogate measure for biomarker levels.


Cancer risk Placental weight Birth weight Maternal hormones 



Support for this research was provided by the Intramural Research Programs of the National Cancer Institute, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest of financial disclosures.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. (outside the USA) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Britton Trabert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Matthew P. Longnecker
    • 2
  • Barry I. Graubard
    • 3
  • Mark A. Klebanoff
    • 4
  • Frank Z. Stanczyk
    • 5
  • Katherine A. McGlynn
    • 1
  1. 1.Hormonal and Reproductive Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and GeneticsNational Cancer Institute, NIH, DHHSRockvilleUSA
  2. 2.Epidemiology BranchNational Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH, DHHSResearch Triangle ParkUSA
  3. 3.Biostatistics Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and GeneticsNational Cancer Institute, NIH, DHHSRockvilleUSA
  4. 4.Division of Epidemiology, Statistics and Prevention ResearchEunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH, DHHSBethesdaUSA
  5. 5.Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Preventive MedicineUniversity of Southern California Keck School of MedicineLos AngelesUSA

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