STAT: Study of Trans Men Suggests That Androgen Hormone Therapy Can Lower Breast Cancer Risk
STAT recently interviewed Simon Knott, PhD, assistant professor of Biomedical Sciences and Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, about a study he led that showed the potential of androgens (male sex hormones) to prevent or treat a type of breast cancer caused by estrogen, a female sex hormone.
In the study, published in the journal Cell Genomics, Knott and his co-authors analyzed the impact of androgens on normal, healthy breasts. They examined breast tissue cells from transgender men undergoing gender-affirming androgen therapy and compared those samples with breast tissue from cisgender women who had undergone cosmetic breast surgery.
“One of the biggest, most striking changes was that androgen appears to induce almost male characteristics in the breast,” Knott told STAT. After androgen therapy, breast cells that normally show the highest level of estrogen receptor signaling—they react to the female hormone—were “reduced dramatically.”
An overabundance of estrogen receptor signaling “is probably one of the greatest causes of breast cancer,” Knott told STAT. These findings showed the potential of androgen therapy to counteract the effect of estrogen on breast tissue cells.
“Now people might say, high doses of androgen might be protective but what comes with that are male characteristics that breast cancer patients or women at high risk of breast cancer might be unwilling to deal with,” Knott told STAT.
To avoid unwanted side effects of using the male hormones in women, Knott and his co-authors plan to further study how low doses of androgens can be harnessed to battle breast cancer.
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