Abnormal levels of plasma hormones in men with prostate cancer: Evidence toward a “two‐disease” theory

Barnett Zumoff, Joseph Levin, Gladys W. Strain, Robert S. Rosenfeld, John O'Connor, Selwyn Z. Freed, Jacob Kream, Willet S. Whitmore, David K. Fukushima, Leon Hellman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


The 24‐hr mean plasma concentrations of 13 hormones or hormone metabolites (cortisol, testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, dehydroisoandrosterone, dehydroisoandrosterone sulfate, androsterone, androsterone sulfate, estrone, thyroxine, triiodothyronine, LH, FSH, and prolactin) were measured in 16 rigorously screened patients (aged 55–80) with stage C or D prostate cancer and 36 normal men. Nine of the hormones showed no abnormalities in the patients but four (testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, cortisol, and estrone) showed abnormalities. Testosterone and dihydrotestosterone, which, respectively, decreased with age and showed no change with age in the normal men, rose sharply with age in the patients. The patients' curves crossed the normal curves at about age 65; patients 65 or above showed normal values while patients under age 65 showed significantly subnormal levels of both hormones: testosterone averaged 282 ng/dl in patients vs 434 ng/dl in controls (P < 0.0001) and dihydrotestosterone averaged 70 ng/dl in patients vs 99 ng/dl in controls (P <0.01). Cortisol, which was age invariant in the normal men, fell sharply with age in the patients; patients under 65 had significantly elevated levels (10.1 vs 6.9 μg/dl; P < 0.0001), while patients 65 or older had normal levels. Estrone levels were age invariant in both patients and controls, but the mean level in patients was markedly elevated (81 vs 47 pg/ml in controls; P < 0.001). The cortisol/testosterone ratio almost completely separated prostate cancer patients under 65 from normal men, but did not discriminate patients 65 or older from normal. The findings indicate that prostate cancer patients under 65 differ markedly in their endogenous hormonal pattern from patients 65 or older. This leads us to propose a “two‐disease” theory of prostate cancer, with possible differences in genetic factors and prognosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-588
Number of pages10
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1982
Externally publishedYes


  • prostate cancer; plasma hormones; testosterone; cortisol; estrone; age effects


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