An ultrasensitive stable isotope dilution liquid chromatography/selected reaction monitoring/mass spectrometry (LC/SRM/MS) assay has been developed for serum estrone, 16α-hydroxyestrone, 4-methoxyestrone, and 2- methoxyestrone. The enhanced sensitivity was obtained by the use of Girard P (GP) pre-ionized derivatives coupled with microflow LC. The limit of detection for each estrogen using 0.5 mL of serum was 0.156 pg/mL and linear standard curves were obtained up to 20 pg/mL. Serum samples from 20 postmenopausal women (10 lifetime non-smokers and 10 current smokers) were analyzed using this new assay. Mean serum concentrations of estrone and 2-methoxyestrone were 14.06 pg/mL (±1.56 pg/mL) and 3.30 pg/mL (±1.00 pg/mL), respectively, for the 20 subjects enrolled in the study. The mean estrone concentration determined by our ultrasensitive and highly specific assay was significantly lower than that reported for the control groups in most previous breast cancer studies of postmenopausal women. In addition (and contrary to many reports) serum 16α-hydroxyestrone was not detected in any of the subjects, and 4-methoxyestrone was detected in only one of the subjects. Furthermore, there were no significant differences in the mean serum concentrations of estrone and 2-methoxyestrone or the ratio of serum 2- methoxyestrone to estrone between the non-smoking and smoking groups. Interestingly, the one subject with measurable serum 4-methoxyestrone (2.3 pg/mL) had the lowest estrone and 2-methoxyestrone concentrations. Using this assay it will now be possible to obtain definitive information on the levels of serum estrone, 4-methoxyestrone, and 2-methoxyestrone in studies of cancer risk using small serum volumes available from previous epidemiology studies. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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