Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome and the Estrogen Hypothesis: A Quantitative Meta-Analysis

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Testicular Dysgenesis Syndrome and the Estrogen Hypothesis: A Quantitative Meta-Analysis

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND: Male reproductive tract abnormalities such as hypospadias and cryptorchidism, and testicular cancer have been proposed to comprise a common syndrome together with impaired spermatogenesis with a common etiology resulting from the disruption of gonadal development during fetal life, the testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS). The hypothesis that in utero exposure to estrogenic agents could induce these disorders was first proposed in 1993. The only quantitative summary estimate of the association between prenatal exposure to estrogenic agents and testicular cancer was published over 10 years ago, and other systematic reviews of the association between estrogenic compounds, other than the potent pharmaceutical estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES), and TDS end points have remained inconclusive.

OBJECTIVES: We conducted a quantitative meta-analysis of the association between the end points related to TDS and prenatal exposure to estrogenic agents. Inclusion in this analysis was based on mechanistic criteria, and the plausibility of an estrogen receptor (ER)-[alpha]-mediated mode of action was specifically explored.

RESULTS: We included in this meta-analysis eight studies investigating the etiology of hypospadias and/or cryptorchidism that had not been identified in previous systematic reviews. Four additional studies of pharmaceutical estrogens yielded a statistically significant updated summary estimate for testicular cancer.

CONCLUSIONS: The doubling of the risk ratios for all three end points investigated after DES exposure is consistent with a shared etiology and the TDS hypothesis but does not constitute evidence of an estrogenic mode of action. Results of the subset analyses point to the existence of unidentified sources of heterogeneity between studies or within the study population.

KEY WORDS: cryptorchidism, diethylstilbestrol, endocrine disruption, environment, estrogen, hypospadias, meta-analysis, oral contraceptives, testicular cancer, testicular dysgenesis. Environ Health Perspect 116: 149-157 (2008). doi:10.1289/ehp.l0545 available via http://dx.doi.org/ [Online 8 November 2007]

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Impaired spermatogenesis, male reproductive tract abnormalities such as hypospadias and cryptorchidism, and testicular cancer have been proposed to comprise a common underlying syndrome with a common aetiology resulting from the disruption of embryonic programming and gonadal development during fetal life, termed the testicular dysgenesis syndrome (TDS) (Sharpe and Skakkebaek 2003; Skakkebaek et al. 2001). A hormonal etiology most likely underlies this syndrome, although it is believed to have more than one cause, possibly including other than endocrine disruption. Some common causes of endocrine disruption include infection, diet and body weight, lifestyle, genetics, and environmental exposure, but endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), particularly those with estrogenlike properties, have received the most scientific attention.

The synthetic estrogenic drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) was prescribed to more than 5 million pregnant women from the late 1940s to the early 1970s to prevent abortions and pregnancy-related complications (Palmlund et al. 1993). Evidence later showed that maternal ingestion of DES during early pregnancy increased the risk of vaginal clear cell adenocarcinoma in female offspring (Herbst et al. 1971) and resulted in an increased incidence of malformations of the testes, the development of epididymal cysts, and impaired sperm quality in male offspring (Bibbo et al. 1977). During pregnancy, maternal estrogen levels are significantly elevated. However, more than 90% of maternal endogenous estrogens are effectively sequestered via binding to sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), and thus the fetus is relatively protected (Joffe 2001; Vidaeff and Sever 2005). On the other hand, DES and ethinylestradiol do not bind well to SHBG, having a higher biopotency if ingested (Sharpe and Skakkebaek 2003; Vidaeff and Sever 2005). …

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