Open Access Short report

Expression of epidermal growth factor, transforming growth factor-β1 and adiponectin in nipple aspirate fluid and plasma of pre and post-menopausal women

Jessica A Miller1*, Patricia A Thompson1, Iman A Hakim2, Ana Maria Lopez1, Cynthia A Thomson2, Chiu-Hsieh Hsu2 and H-H Sherry Chow1

Author Affiliations

1 The University of Arizona Cancer Center, Tucson, AZ, USA

2 Zuckerman College of Public Health, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Biomarker Research 2013, 1:18  doi:10.1186/2050-7771-1-18

Published: 15 April 2013



Nipple aspirate fluid (NAF) contains large amounts of protein thought to reflect the microenvironment of the breast, and is of interest in breast cancer prevention research. The correlation between specific NAF proteins to plasma concentrations have not been well studied in healthy women. We collected matched NAF and plasma from 43 healthy pre and postmenopausal women participating in an early phase clinical study to compare the levels of putative cancer protein biomarkers. We compared baseline NAF and plasma levels of epidermal growth factor (EGF), transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-β1), and adiponectin and evaluated menopausal status and body mass index (BMI) as potential modifying factors.


NAF and plasma levels of EGF, TGF-β1 and adiponectin were not correlated. EGF and TGF-β1 levels in NAF of premenopausal women were significantly higher than postmenopausal women (P’s < 0.01). These differences by menopausal status were not observed in plasma. Both NAF and plasma adiponectin levels were non-significantly higher in postmenopausal women. NAF biomarker levels were not associated with BMI whereas plasma EGF, TGF-β1 and adiponectin levels in postmenopausal women were all inversely correlated with BMI (P’s < 0.05).


Protein biomarkers differ significantly between NAF and plasma and are affected differently by both BMI and menopausal status. This study demonstrates important differences in biological information gained by characterizing biomarkers in NAF compared to plasma and suggests each sample source may independently inform on breast cancer risk.