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Studies show that choosing a better contraceptive method can prevent breast cancer




Hormonal contraceptives such as pills, patches, and vaginal rings stop ovulation, change cervical mucus to prevent sperm from passing through the cervix and finding eggs, or change the lining of the uterus to prevent it. It contains synthetic hormones that prevent pregnancy by preventing fertilized eggs from being embedded in it.

Despite their widespread use, hormonal contraceptives are known to increase Breast cancer riskIs the most common cause of cancer-related deaths among women around the world and was also at the top of the list of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in 2020.

The main component of hormonal contraceptives is progestin, which mimics the female sex hormone progesterone. Progesterone is involved in many biological processes, including various aspects of fetal development such as the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and brain programming.

Currently, a team of scientists led by Professor Cathrin Brisken of the EPFL’s Faculty of Life Sciences is thoroughly examining the various biological effects of various hormonal contraceptive progestins on breast tissue (mammary epithelium).The work is published in EMBO molecular medicine..

We know how various contraceptives affect the cardiovascular system, but little is known about their effects on the breast. Therefore, we have developed a new approach to compare the most commonly used progestins in various hormonal contraceptives. Surprisingly, some of them stimulate cell proliferation in the breast, but others do not. “

Cathrin Brisken, Professor, Faculty of Life Sciences, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

Researchers have tested the effects of long-term exposure to various progestins on human breast epithelial cells or HBEC that line the lining of the breast. To do this, they “humanized” by transplanting udder epithelial cells from human breast tissue provided from reduced breast plasty samples into the animal ducts and monitoring their growth in vivo. Developed a mouse mammary gland.

“HBEC engrafts and proliferates in the lactiferous ducts of mice and maintains hormone receptor expression and hormone responsiveness, which establish relevant preclinical models and thereby facilitate translational research. It’s an important factor for this, “says Brisken.

The team found that it was their “androgenic properties” that distinguish between stimulant progestins and harmless progestins. It is a terminology for substances that cause the development of male characteristics such as hair and muscle mass. This is not as strange as it sounds. : Progesterone, primarily known as the female hormone, is used in the production of the male hormone testosterone, which is well known in both women and men.

Some progestins have androgenic properties that act like testosterone. Some actually block them. Important is a protein known as the androgen receptor, which, when activated by the androgen receptor, migrates to the cell’s nucleus and regulates the expression of specific genes.

Using mouse model epithelial cells, researchers found that the androgen receptor acts via the androgen receptor to induce expression of the protein Rank 1, which plays an important role in cell proliferation of the mammary gland epithelium. .. This effect was not seen with antiandrogenic progestin.

This study showed that androgenic (non-antiandrogenic) progestin promotes cell proliferation. “Long-term exposure of human breast epithelium to androgenic progestin caused overgrowth and alteration of cells associated with early precancerous lesions, at least in xenografted human breast epithelium,” said De Martino. I will.

“Hormonal contraceptives expose women to a variety of progestins, with or without estrogen,” says Brisken. “The androgen properties of progestin determine their biological activity in the breast epithelium and reveal the unexpected role of androgen receptor activity in the proliferation of breast epithelial cells.”

An important insight in this study is that progestin with antiandrogen activity may be a safer option for breast cancer risk than testosterone-related compounds such as the widely used contraceptive levonorgestrel (“Plan B”). about it. “It may be possible to prevent contraceptive-related breast cancer by taking into account the molecular composition of contraceptives and making more informed choices,” Brisken concludes.


Journal reference:

Siamesedin, M. , et al.. (2021) Contraceptive progestin with androgenic properties stimulates the proliferation of breast epithelial cells. EMBO molecular medicine..


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