Studies have suggested a relationship between sex hormones, such as androgen and estrogen, and the development and progression of liver cancer. Liver cancer is more prevalent in men than women, however the aromatase status in diseased liver is largely unknown.
By Keigo Murakami
Numerous studies have been conducted on the relationship between aromatase expression (the enzyme that converts testosterone into an oestrogen) and breast carcinoma progression; however, only a few studies have reported a correlation between aromatase and liver cancer. In addition, the relationship between aromatase and hepatitis of any etiology has remained largely unknown.
In a recent study published in the journal of Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation, researchers analyse the relationship between aromatase and hepatitis and the cause of disease.
The human liver is one of the target organs for estrogens, which play an important role as a mitogenic factor in both normal and diseased liver. The ovary is the major source of circulating estrogens in premenopausal women, whereas in postmenopausal women and men, estrogen derives from peripheral aromatization of circulating androgen precursors in many extragonadal organs such as the skin, adipose tissues, liver, heart, osteoblasts and chondrocytes in the bone and brain.
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of liver cancer, is consistently two to three times higher in men than in women. However, its detail, in particular, aromatase status in diseased human liver has remained largely unknown. In their research, the scientists immunolocalized aromatase in a total of 155 cases – including normal liver, alcoholic hepatitis, hepatitis B and C virus and infants.
In conclusion, the authors found that high immunoreactivity scores of aromatase and 17β-HSD type 1 in patients with hepatitis B virus might suggest a correlation between hepatitis infection and estrogen expression in hepatocytes, however further investigations are required to clarify the relationships among aromatase expression, chronic hepatitis, particularly HBV-related hepatitis, and HCC occurrence, including how the mechanism is related to aromatase expression.
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