Our understanding of breast cancer biology, and our ability to manipulate breast cancers have grown exponentially in the last 20 years. Much of that expansion has focused on the roles of steroids in driving these neoplasms. Initially this research focused on estrogens and progesterone receptors, and more recently on androgen actions in breast cancers. This review aims to make the case for glucocorticoids as the next essential steroid subclass that contributes significantly to our understanding of steroidogenic regulation of these neoplasms. Glucocorticoids have the potential to play multiple roles in the regulation of breast cancers including their control of cellular differentiation, apoptosis and proliferation. Beyond this they also act as a master integrator of organ homeostats in relation to such as circadian rhythms and stress responses. Therefore a better understanding of glucocorticoids and breast cancer could help to explain some of the epidemiological links between circadian disruption and/or stress and breast cancer development. Finally glucocorticoids are currently used during chemotherapeutic treatment in breast cancer therapy and yet results of various studies suggest that this may have an adverse impact on treatment success. This review aims to summarise the current evidence for glucocorticoids as actors in breast cancer and then suggest future essential approaches in order to determine the roles of glucocorticoids in this disease.
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