The Role of Hormones in Breast Cancer


Breast cancer is a global concern, touching the lives of countless women. What if we could better understand its roots, specifically the role of our hormones? Continue reading as we unravel the intimate dance between hormones and breast cancer. In this article, we’ll review what hormones are commonly associated with breast cancer and differentiate between types of breast cancer and treatment based on hormone status.

What Are Hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers produced by the endocrine glands in our body. They travel through the bloodstream to tissues and organs, influencing many bodily processes, including growth, metabolism, and reproductive functions. Among the many hormones, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are particularly relevant when it comes to breast cancer.

Hormonal Influence on Breast Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer’s growth can sometimes be fueled by the body’s natural female hormones, particularly estrogen and progesterone. These cancer cells possess receptors on their surface, which can bind to these hormones circulating in the body. As a result, hormone receptors — proteins that pick up hormone signals — are routinely tested during a breast cancer diagnosis.

Understanding the hormone sensitivity of your breast cancer assists your doctor in determining the most effective treatment strategy or in preventing recurrence.

Hormone Receptor-Positive Breast Cancer: When breast cancer cells have receptors for estrogen and progesterone, they are termed ER-positive or PR-positive, respectively. They rely on these hormones to grow.

Hormone Receptor-Negative Breast Cancer: If breast cancer cells lack these receptors, termed ER-negative or PR-negative, they don’t rely on hormones for growth and usually require different treatment approaches.

Estrogen and Breast Cancer

Estrogen is an important hormone involved in the normal development of breast tissue. It promotes cell growth and division in the breasts and other areas of the body. However, prolonged exposure to high estrogen levels over time increases the risk of developing breast cancer.