Homeostasis in normal tissue is regulated by a balance between proliferative activity and cell loss by apoptosis. Apoptosis is a physiological mechanism of cell loss that depends on both pre-existing proteins and de novo protein synthesis, and the process of apoptosis is integral to normal mammary gland development and in many diseases, including breast cancer. The mammary gland is one of the few organ systems in mammals that completes its morphologic development postnatally during two discrete physiologic states, puberty and pregnancy. The susceptibility of the mammary gland to tumorigenesis is influenced by its normal development, particularly during stages of puberty and pregnancy that are characterized by marked alterations in breast cell proliferation and differentiation. Numerous epidemiologic studies have suggested that specific details in the development of the mammary gland play a critical role in breast cancer risk. Mammary gland development is characterized by dynamic changes in the expression profiles of Bcl-2 family members. The expression of Bcl-2 family proteins in breast cancer is also influenced by estradiol and by progestin. Since the ratio of proapoptotic to antiapoptotic proteins determines apoptosis or cell survival, hormone levels may have important implications in the therapeutic prevention of breast cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Cancer Research