To assess if and by which mechanisms pharmacological estrogen treatment induces gallstone disease, we examined patients with recently diagnosed prostatic cancer randomly allocated to estrogen therapy (n = 37) or orchidectomy (n = 35). According to gallbladder ultrasonography, after 1 yr new gallstones had developed in 5 of 28 estrogen-treated patients, compared with 0 of 26 orchidectomized patients (P = 0.03). Estrogen therapy for 3 mo increased the relative concentration of cholesterol and cholesterol saturation of bile by approximately 30% (n = 10). Serum LDL cholesterol was reduced by approximately 40%, and its relative change related inversely to that of bile cholesterol (Rs = -0.77). There were no changes in biliary or serum lipids after orchidectomy (n = 9). Secretion rates of biliary lipids were measured with a duodenal perfusion technique. Patients on chronic estrogen therapy (n = 5) had approximately 40% higher biliary excretion rates of cholesterol than age-matched controls (n = 7). Phospholipid secretion was also higher, but no difference in bile acid secretion was found. We conclude that an increased hepatic secretion of cholesterol results in increased cholesterol saturation of bile and an enhanced rate of gallstone formation during estrogen treatment. The changes in bile cholesterol seem to be related to the induced changes in serum lipoprotein metabolism.
P Henriksson, K Einarsson, A Eriksson, U Kelter, B Angelin