Cancer Causes & Control

, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp 741–748 | Cite as

Circulating prolactin levels and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer

  • Tess V. Clendenen
  • Alan A. Arslan
  • Anna E. Lokshin
  • Mengling Liu
  • Eva Lundin
  • Karen L. Koenig
  • Franco Berrino
  • Goran Hallmans
  • Annika Idahl
  • Vittorio Krogh
  • Annekatrin Lukanova
  • Adele Marrangoni
  • Paola Muti
  • Brian M. Nolen
  • Nina Ohlson
  • Roy E. Shore
  • Sabina Sieri
  • Anne Zeleniuch-Jacquotte
Original paper



Indirect evidence from experimental and epidemiological studies suggests that prolactin may be involved in ovarian cancer development. However, the relationship between circulating prolactin levels and risk of ovarian cancer is unknown.


We conducted a nested case–control study of 230 cases and 432 individually matched controls within three prospective cohorts to evaluate whether pre-diagnostic circulating prolactin is associated with subsequent risk of ovarian cancer. We also assessed whether lifestyle and reproductive factors are associated with circulating prolactin among controls.


Prolactin levels were significantly lower among post- versus pre-menopausal women, parous versus nulliparous women, and past versus never users of oral contraceptives in our cross-sectional analysis of controls. In our nested case–control study, we observed a non-significant positive association between circulating prolactin and ovarian cancer risk (ORQ4vsQ1 1.56, 95 % CI 0.94, 2.63, p trend 0.15). Our findings were similar in multivariate-adjusted models and in the subgroup of women who donated blood ≥5 years prior to diagnosis. We observed a significant positive association between prolactin and risk for the subgroup of women with BMI ≥25 kg/m2 (ORQ4vsQ1 3.10, 95 % CI 1.39, 6.90), but not for women with BMI <25 kg/m2 (ORQ4vsQ1 0.81, 95 % CI 0.40, 1.64).


Our findings suggest that prolactin may be associated with increased risk of ovarian cancer, particularly in overweight/obese women. Factors associated with reduced risk of ovarian cancer, such as parity and use of oral contraceptives, were associated with lower prolactin levels, which suggests that modulation of prolactin may be a mechanism underlying their association with risk.


Prolactin Ovarian cancer Serum Plasma 



This work was supported by research grants from the U.S. National Cancer Institute (R21 CA116585, R01 CA098661, and P30CA016087) and the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Center Grant (P30 ES000260).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tess V. Clendenen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alan A. Arslan
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Anna E. Lokshin
    • 5
    • 6
    • 7
  • Mengling Liu
    • 1
  • Eva Lundin
    • 8
  • Karen L. Koenig
    • 1
  • Franco Berrino
    • 9
  • Goran Hallmans
    • 10
  • Annika Idahl
    • 11
  • Vittorio Krogh
    • 12
  • Annekatrin Lukanova
    • 4
    • 13
  • Adele Marrangoni
    • 5
  • Paola Muti
    • 14
  • Brian M. Nolen
    • 5
  • Nina Ohlson
    • 8
  • Roy E. Shore
    • 2
    • 15
  • Sabina Sieri
    • 12
  • Anne Zeleniuch-Jacquotte
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Population HealthNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Division of Epidemiology, Department of Environmental MedicineNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.New York University Cancer InstituteNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  4. 4.Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyNew York University School of MedicineNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Science, Department of MedicineUniversity of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, University of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  6. 6.Department of PathologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  7. 7.Department of Ob/Gyn Reproductive SciencesUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  8. 8.Department of Medical Biosciences, PathologyUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  9. 9.Etiological and Preventive Epidemiology UnitNational Cancer InstituteMilanItaly
  10. 10.Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine/Nutritional ResearchUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  11. 11.Department of Clinical Sciences, Obstetrics and GynecologyUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden
  12. 12.Epidemiology and Prevention UnitNational Cancer InstituteMilanItaly
  13. 13.Division of Cancer EpidemiologyGerman Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)HeidelbergGermany
  14. 14.Epidemiology and Prevention UnitIstituto Regina ElenaRomeItaly
  15. 15.Radiation Effects Research FoundationHiroshimaJapan

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