Variation in estradiol, estradiol precursors, and estrogen-related products in nipple aspirate fluid from normal premenopausal women

Robert T. Chatterton*, Angela S. Geiger, Seema A. Khan, Irene B. Helenowski, Borko D. Jovanovic, Peter H. Gann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The purpose of the study was to measure the concentrations of estradiol, its primary precursors, and factors with which it interacts in the breast, and determine their sources of variation. Nipple aspirate fluid (NAF) was collected from premenopausal women during the midluteal phase of the menstrual cycle. The fluid was diluted and unconjugated steroids were extracted. Estradiol was further purified by a solvent partition into aqueous NaOH. Androgens were measured in the non-phenolic fraction. Water-soluble, conjugated steroids and proteins were measured in the aqueous residue. All analytes were measured by immunoassays. Permutation methods were used to determine the correlations over multiple periods of time. The average concentration of estradiol in NAF was 435 pmol/L after purification but was many times higher when assayed without purification. Estrone and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) sulfates were present in 3.7 and 75 μmol/L concentrations, respectively, while unconjugated androstenedione and DHEA were present in nanomole per liter concentrations. Lack of the steroid sulfates in NAF in 19% of subjects had no effect on NAF estradiol levels but was associated with a 77% lower concentration of unconjugated DHEA. Progesterone was present in concentrations that were 3- to 4-fold higher than normal serum concentrations (mean: 291 nmol/L). Cathepsin D, epidermal growth factor, and interleukin 6 had average values of 3.4 μg/mL, 424 ng/mL, and 1.7 ng/mL, respectively. Correlations between breasts were between 0.57 and 0.84 for the several analytes; correlations over time ranged from 0.64 and 0.93 with estrone sulfate highest in both categories. The lower correlation between breasts than within breasts indicates that local factors play an important role in determining the levels of many of these analytes in the breast. The high stability of the concentrations of several analytes over time indicates that fluctuations in environmental factors have little immediate effect on levels in the breast, and portends their utility as surrogate breast cancer risk markers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)928-935
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Oncology


Dive into the research topics of 'Variation in estradiol, estradiol precursors, and estrogen-related products in nipple aspirate fluid from normal premenopausal women'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this