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Clinical Research

Oestrogen receptor content of normal breast cells and breast carcinomas throughout the menstrual cycle

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988; 296 doi: (Published 14 May 1988) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1988;296:1349
  1. Christos Markopoulos,
  2. Uta Berger,
  3. Patricia Wilson,
  4. Jean-Claude Gazet,
  5. R Charles Coombes


    To examine the presence and distribution of oestrogen receptors in the normal breast during the menstrual cycle cytological samples obtained by fine needle aspiration from 69 premenopausal women with normal breasts were analysed immunocyto-chemically with a monoclonal antibody to oestrogen receptor; samples from 15 postmenopausal women were also analysed. The receptor content of breast cancers from 83 premenopausal women was also determined in relation to when during the menstrual cycle excision was performed. In the normal premenopausal women oestrogen receptors were detected in the nuclei of epithelial cells in 21 out of 68 (31%) assessable samples. All 21 of these samples were obtained from the 35 women who were studied during the first half of their menstrual cycle (days 28 to 14). None of the 33 samples obtained during the second half of the cycle contained oestrogen receptors. Samples were assessable in eight of the postmenopausal women, six giving a positive result for oestrogen receptor. Fifty one of the 83 carcinomas were positive for oestrogen receptor, 24 having been excised during the first half of the cycle and 27 during the second half.

    Production of oestrogen receptor protein is suppressed at the time of ovulation in the normal breast epithelium of premenopausal women. In contrast, breast carcinoma cells either synthesise this protein continuously throughout the cycle or fail to express it despite fluctuations of serum hormone concentrations.

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