Smoking Ups Postmenopausal Sex Hormone Levels

One to two years after quitting smoking, hormone levels match those of never smokers

THURSDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Postmenopausal women who smoke have increased levels of androgens, estrogens, 17-hydroxprogesterone, and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), according to a study published online Aug. 10 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Judith S. Brand, from the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, and colleagues investigated the relationship between smoking and endogenous sex hormone levels in 2,030 postmenopausal women between the ages of 55 and 81 years, from the Norfolk population of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer. The participants were at least one year postmenopause and not using hormone replacement therapy. Analysis in the cross-sectional study was done using general linear models.

The investigators found that the number of cigarettes per day correlated with increased testosterone levels (from 19 to 37 percent), free testosterone (19 to 34 percent), 17-hydroxprogesterone (17 to 22 percent), androstenedione (2 to 23 percent), SHBG (6 to 10 percent), and estradiol (−2 to 15 percent). Upon stratified analysis for body mass index, SHBG and free estradiol were found to have increased in lean and overweight women, respectively. Estrone levels were highest in heavy smokers, but no clear dose-response relationship was observed. A larger difference in sex hormone levels was seen for current smokers than lifetime smokers. Within one to two years of stopping smoking, sex hormones matched the levels of never smokers.

"Cigarette smoking is associated with higher circulating levels of androgens, estrogens, 17-hydroxprogesterone, and SHBG in postmenopausal women," the authors write.

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