Hormone Tied to Three Deadly Diseases

Breast cancer and cardiometabolic diseases like diabetes and heart disease linked to increased hormone levels

(RxWiki News) Your body is linked together through a complex system we still know little about. As such, diseases are related in ways still unknown. Now, researchers have pinpointed a hormone linked to three deadly diseases.

In a recent study, levels of a certain hormone - called proneurotensin - were associated with a future risk of diabetes, heart disease and death. In women, the hormone was also linked to a risk of breast cancer.

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In experimental settings, neurotensin (a related hormone to proneurotensin) has been linked to breast cancer growth. However, it remains unclear what role the hormone plays in the development of breast cancer or other diseases, said Olle Melander, MD, PhD, of Lund University in Sweden, and colleagues in background information to their study.

The study's results showed that the links between proneurotensin levels and diabetes, heart disease and death were stronger in women than in men.

Only in women was there a link between proneurotensin and breast cancer.

"This is a very interesting finding, and the next few years as we elucidate the mechanisms by which elevated levels of proneurotensin result in increased breast cancer risk should be exciting," said Adam Brufsky, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study.

In addition, the researchers found that proneurotensin levels rose several years before patients developed diseases. This finding suggests that proneurotensin levels may be a marker of underlying risk for these diseases rather than a sign of the diseases themselves, the researchers said.

These findings do not prove that proneurotensin levels directly cause diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer. Rather, the hormone may indicate who is at risk of these diseases.

For their study, Dr. Melander and colleagues measured the proneurotensin levels of 4,632 people.

Higher levels of the hormone in men and women were related to an increased risk of:

  • diabetes, with a hazard ratio of 1.28 (roughly 28 percent increased risk)
  • cardiovascular disease (heart disease), with a hazard ratio of 1.17 (roughly 17 percent increased risk)
  • death from cardiovascular disease, with a hazard ratio of 1.29 (roughly 29 percent increased risk)

Higher levels of the hormone in women only were related to an increased risk of:

  • diabetes, with a hazard ratio of 1.41 (roughly 41 percent increase risk)
  • cardiovascular disease, with a hazard ratio of 1.33 (roughly 33 percent increased risk)
  • death from cardiovascular disease, with a hazard ratio of 1.50 (roughly 50 percent increased risk)

A hazard ratio explains how much an event happens in one group versus another. A hazard ratio of more than 1.0 means that event happens more in the first group than in the second group. In this case, people with increased proneurotensin levels had a greater risk of these conditions than those without increased levels.

The study was published October 10 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Review Date: 
October 14, 2012