WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine may be one step closer to understanding why past oral contraceptive use dramatically lowers the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers later in life.
While studying the effect of post-menopausal dietary soy consumption on estrogen metabolism in cynomolgus monkeys, Latanya M. Scott, Ph.D., discovered that monkeys who had been given birth control earlier in life had a reduced amount of estrogen excreted in their urine. The research was done in collaboration with Xia Xu, Ph.D., and Timothy Veenstra, Ph.D. at Science Applications International Corporation-Frederick, Inc., in Frederick, Md., who have developed novel methods for analysis of urinary estrogens.
The discovery was particularly noteworthy because it was found three years after oral contraceptive treatment was stopped, roughly the equivalent of a decade of life in a human.
While researchers have known for many years that past oral contraceptive use significantly lowers the risk of ovarian and uterine cancers later in life, this new observation in monkeys may shed light on the mechanism behind the cancer-protective effect of the treatment. Past oral contraceptive use appears to result in a long-term change in the way the monkeys' bodies process hormones. While researchers don't yet understand the precise mechanism by which hormone levels are being affected, they do know that both the level of estrogen in the blood and the amount of estrogen being excreted in urine are lowered with past oral contraceptive use, which may mean that the oral contraceptive use is somehow leading to a diminished synthesis of estrogen.
The study appears in this month's issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.
"Hormone exposure has long been known to be important in cancer risk," said J. Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., and senior researcher on the project. "These effects are robust, and we b
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Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center