The family of seventeen beta hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase enzymes has a long and diverse history in breast and breast cancer research. Given the known dependence of the breast on steroid signalling and intracrine steroid metabolism these enzymes are considered to be essential local fine tuners of overall steroid balance in the tissue. This review will cover the current state of knowledge regarding the expression, clinical effect and biological regulation of enzymes in both cancerous and normal states. In addition we will also cover the current state of knowledge regarding 17βHSD actions in the often neglected adipose and stromal components of tumours.
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