Postmenopausal dense breasts maintain premenopausal levels of GH and insulin-like growth factor binding proteins in vivo.

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Dense breast tissue is associated with 4-6 times higher risk of breast cancer by poorly understood mechanisms. No preventive therapy for this high-risk group is available. After menopause breast density decreases due to involution of the mammary gland. In dense breast tissue this process is haltered by undetermined biological actions. Growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like binding proteins (IGFBPs) play major roles in normal mammary gland development but their roles in maintaining breast density are unknown.To reveal in vivo levels of GH, IGFBPs, and other pro-tumorigenic proteins in the extracellular microenvironment in breast cancer, in normal breast tissue with various breast density in postmenopausal women, and premenopausal breasts. We also sought to determine possible correlations between these determinants.Microdialysis was used to collect extracellular in vivo proteins intratumorally from breast cancers before surgery and from normal human breast tissue from premenopausal women and postmenopausal women with mammographic dense or nondense breasts.Estrogen receptor positive breast cancers exhibited increased extracellular GH (P<0.01). Dense breasts of postmenopausal women exhibited similar levels of GH as premenopausal breasts and significantly higher levels than in nondense breasts (P<0.001). Similar results were found for IGFBP-1, -2, -3, and -7 (P<0.01) and for IGFBP-6 (P<0.05). Strong positive correlations were revealed between GH and IGFBPs and pro-tumorigenic matrix metalloproteinases, urokinase-type plasminogen activator, IL-6, IL-8, and VEGF in normal breast tissue.GH pathways may be targetable for cancer prevention therapeutics in postmenopausal women with dense breast tissue.

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