Elevated Serum Inhibin Concentrations In Postmenopausal Women With Ovarian Tumors

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Abstract

Background

Inhibin is an ovarian hormone that inhibits the secretion of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) by the anterior pituitary gland. Women with granulosa-cell tumors of the ovary have elevated serum inhibin concentrations, but whether the concentrations are increased in women with other ovarian tumors is unknown.

Methods

We measured serum inhibin and FSH concentrations before surgery in 212 postmenopausal women with suspected ovarian cancer and after surgery in 210 of them.

Results

Eighteen of the 22 women (82 percent) with mucinous carcinomas (mucinous cystadenocarcinomas and mucinous borderline cystic tumors) of the ovary had elevated serum inhibin concentrations, whereas only 9 of the 53 women (17 percent) with serous carcinomas (serous cystadenocarcinomas and serous borderline cystic tumors) had elevated levels. Serum inhibin concentrations were also elevated in 2 of 12 women (17 percent) with clear-cell carcinomas, 4 of 26 women (15 percent) with undifferentiated carcinomas, 3 of 3 women (100 percent) with granulosa-cell tumors, and 5 of 27 women (19 percent) with other ovarian cancers. The serum concentrations of inhibin were increased in 2 of 28 women (7 percent) with nonovarian pelvic cancers and 11 of 41 women (27 percent) with benign ovarian diseases. All women but one with initially elevated serum inhibin concentrations had low values one week after surgery. Serum inhibin concentrations correlated negatively with serum FSH concentrations (P = 0.05) in women with granulosa-cell tumors but not in women with other tumors, suggesting that the inhibin secreted by tumors in the latter group has decreased biologic activity.

Conclusions

Serum inhibin concentrations are elevated in most postmenopausal women with mucinous carcinomas of the ovary and in some women with other types of epithelial ovarian tumors. The concentrations fall after tumor removal. (N Engl J Med 1993;329:1539-42.)

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