C-reactive protein (CRP) is a widely used, sensitive biomarker of inflammation. Studies conducted among users of exogenous hormones suggest that estrogen increases CRP, whereas progesterone decreases CRP. Examinations of CRP in normally cycling women suggest the opposite: CRP is negatively associated with endogenous estrogen and positively associated with endogenous progesterone. This work evaluates the association between menstrual cycle-related hormone changes and events (menstruation and ovulation) and CRP. Eight female subjects gave urine and blood samples from twelve days across the menstrual cycle, for a total of eleven cycles. Blood samples were assayed for CRP; urine samples for beta-follicle stimulating hormone (betaFSH), pregnanediol 3-glucuronide (PDG), and estrone glucuronide (E1G). Ovulation day was estimated using hormone levels. Presence or absence of menses was reported by subjects. Analyses were conducted with random-effects linear regression. All cycles were ovulatory; day of ovulation was identified for nine cycles. A ten-fold increase in progesterone was associated with a 23% increase in CRP (P = 0.01), a ten-fold increase in estrogen was associated with a 29% decrease in CRP (P = 0.05), and menses was associated with a 17% increase in CRP (P = 0.18); no association between ovulation or FSH and CRP was found. Hormone changes across the menstrual cycle should be controlled for in future studies of inflammation in reproductive-age women.
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