Prospectively, the relationship between androgen levels in the utero-ovarian circulation, aromatase activity in endometrial and body fat tissue, and the presence or absence of endometrioid endometrial cancer was studied in postmenopausal women. In 43 women with endometrioid endometrial cancer and 8 women with a benign gynecological condition, a hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy was performed. Using tritium water-release assays, aromatase activities in endometrial and body fat tissue were determined and related to the steroid levels from the peripheral and the utero-ovarian venous circulation (estradiol, androstenedione, testosterone) and to the presence or absence of endometrial cancer. Significant aromatase activity was found in both benign and malignant endometrial tissue samples. Aromatase activity in samples of endometrial tissue and in samples of body fat did not correlate with steroid levels in peripheral or utero-ovarian venous blood. Aromatase activity in samples of benign or malignant endometrium did not differ. Remarkably, in four women with mainly poorly differentiated endometrial cancer, very high aromatase activity was found in endometrial tissue. It is likely that multiple pathogenetic pathways exist that eventually lead to the formation of endometrioid endometrial cancer. The local availability of androgens and the finding that aromatase activity is present in both endometrial cancer and benign endometrial tissue support the hypothesis that aromatase activity in the endometrium may play a role in malignant transformation by converting androgens into mitogenic estrogens in the endometrial tissue.
- endometrial cancer
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