A summary of the influence of exogenous estrogen administration across the lifespan on the GH/IGF-1 axis and implications for bone health

Emily A. Southmayd, Mary Jane De Souza

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

11 Scopus citations


Bone growth, development, and remodeling are modulated by numerous circulating hormones. Throughout the lifespan, the extent to which each of the hormones impacts bone differs. Understanding the independent and combined impact of these hormones on controlling bone remodeling allows for the development of more informed decision making regarding pharmacology, specifically the use of hormonal medication, at all ages. Endocrine control of bone health in women is largely dictated by the growth hormone (GH)/insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) axis and the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. Growth hormone, secreted from the pituitary gland, stimulates cells in almost every tissue to secrete IGF-1, although the majority of circulating IGF-1 is produced hepatically. Indeed, systemic IGF-1 concentrations have been found to be correlated with bone mineral density (BMD) in both pre- and post-menopausal women and is often used as a marker of bone formation. Sex steroids produced by the ovaries, namely estradiol, mediate bone resorption through binding to estrogen receptors on osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Specifically, by increasing osteoclast apoptosis and decreasing osteoblast apoptosis, adequate estrogen levels prevent excessive bone resorption, which helps to explain the rapid decline in bone mass that occurs with the menopausal decrease in estrogen production. Though there are documented correlations between endogenous estrogen concentrations and GH/IGF-1 dynamics, this relationship changes across the lifespan as sex-steroid dynamics fluctuate and, possibly, as tissue responsiveness to GH stimulation decreases. Aside from the known role of endogenous sex steroids on bone health, the impact of exogenous estrogen administration is of interest, as exogenous formulations further modulate GH and IGF-1 production. However, the effect and extent of GH and IGF-1 modulation seems to be largely dependent on age at administration and route of administration. Specifically, premenopausal women using combined oral contraceptive therapy (COC), post-menopausal women taking oral hormone therapy (HT), and both pre- and post-menopausal women using a transdermal form of estrogen therapy (COC or HT) demonstrate disparate GH/IGF-1 responses to exogenous estrogen. This review serves to summarize what is currently known regarding the influence of exogenous estrogen administration across the lifespan on the GH/IGF-1 axis and implications for bone health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-13
Number of pages12
JournalGrowth Hormone and IGF Research
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology

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