The relationship of serum hormones to cancer risk has recently been pursued in epidemiological studies, but few have reported on the reproducibility of laboratory findings. Prior to conducting a study of endogenous hormones and endometrial cancer, we evaluated the reproducibility of measurements for several hormones (estrone, estradiol, free estradiol, albumin-bound estradiol, and androstenedione) and sex hormone-binding globulin. We obtained a single unit of blood from each of six women and prepared aliquots of serum for repeated testing. Three laboratories analyzed multiple samples on consecutive working days from which estimates of intraassay and interassay measurement variability were obtained. For estrone and estradiol, a log transformation of the data produced distributions which were nearly normal and permitted the use of parametric statistical tests. In general, we found measurements for most hormones varied considerably between assays. Moreover, differences were observed in the absolute values of sex hormone-binding globulin and of the hormones, particularly for estrone and estradiol, from one laboratory to the next. Our findings suggest that variability of current laboratory procedures may hamper efforts to study the association between disease and endogenous hormones in epidemiological studies. In addition, validation of hormone assays is essential in order to assure standardized results and enable comparisons of data across studies.

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