Hormonal factors and insulin-like growth factor-1 in North American postmenopausal women

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Chan, Carmen
estrogen , insulin-like growth factor-1 , Breast cancer , chemoprevention , exemestane , reproductive risk factors
Background: Mechanisms underlying the effect of estrogen exposure on breast cancer risk remain unclear. Insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels have been positively associated with breast cancer and are a potential mechanism. Objectives: The objectives of this thesis are: 1) to explore whether the reproductive risk factors and the lifetime cumulative number of menstrual cycles (LCMC), as measures for long-term estrogen exposure, are associated with IGF-1 levels, and 2) to examine the effect of an aromatase inhibitor (AI) on IGF-1 levels, and the potential interaction with BMI. Methods: A cross sectional study and a randomized controlled trial nested with the MAP.3 chemoprevention trial were used to address objective 1 and 2, respectively. 567 postmenopausal women were selected. Anthropometric measurements, lifestyle factors, reproductive characteristics and serum IGF-1 concentrations were collected at baseline and one year. Objective 1. The LCMC was computed as a composite measure of the reproductive characteristics. Multivariable linear regression models were used to assess the association between IGF-1 levels and LCMC and the hormonal risk factors, while adjusting for potential covariates. Objective 2. Changes in IGF-1 were compared between the exemestane and placebo, and effect modification by BMI was tested with an interaction term. Results: Objective 1. Women aged 55 years or older at menopause had 16.26 ng/mL (95% CI: 1.76, 30.75) higher IGF-1 compared to women aged less than 50 years at menopause. Women in the highest category of menstrual cycles (≥500 cycles) had an average 19.00 ng/mL (95%CI: 5.86, 32.14) higher concentration of IGF-1 compared to women in the lowest category (<350). Exogenous hormones had no effect on postmenopausal IGF-1 levels. Objective 2. Exemestane significantly increased IGF-1 levels by 18% (95% CI: 14%-22%); while, placebo had no effect on IGF-1. The changes in IGF-1 were significantly different between the treatment arms (P<0.0001) and no significant interaction was observed between treatment and BMI on IGF-1 changes (P=0.1327). Conclusion: Objective 1. Larger number of menstrual cycles and a later age at menopause are positively associated with IGF-1. IGF-1 may be one mechanism by which prolonged estrogen exposure increases cancer risk. Objective 2. We conclude that the reduced cancer risk observed with AI therapy likely occurs in an IGF-1 independent mechanism. Further studies exploring the clinical consequences of increased IGF-1 on AI therapy are needed.
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