High exposure to estrogens may lead to gallbladder cancer, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2010 Aug 17;107(33):14763-8).

From the study, researchers at the University of Houston (UH) learned that inactivation of the liver X beta receptors, or LXRb, led to gallbladder lesions that developed and evolved into cancer in older female mice. However, by removing the ovaries and reducing estrogen levels, researchers were able to prevent the development of tumors in LXRb-/- mice.

The study authors said that one implication of the findings is drugs that decrease the level of estrogens might be added to the conventional treatment of gallbladder cancer. In addition, researchers also explained that the results could shed light upon mutations in the sequence of LXRb that may be responsible for this particular cancer, indicating a higher risk for the disease.

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“Going forward, we need to estimate exactly the levels of LXRb and its activators in human gallbladder cancers, particularly in female patients,” concluded Dr. Jan-Åke Gustafsson, Robert A. Welch Professor in UH’s biology and biochemistry department. “Once the presence and the function of LXRb in the human gallbladder are clear, we are going to test the potential effects of LXRb molecules on human gallbladder cancer cells.”