- 1Center for Women’s Health, Cedars-Sinai Burns and Allen Research Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center/University of California Los Angeles, School of Medicine, 8700 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA.
Galactose is an energy-providing nutrient and also a necessary basic substrate for the biosynthesis of many macromolecules in the body. Metabolic pathways for galactose are important not only for the provision of these pathways but also for the prevention of galactose and galactose metabolite accumulation. Problems with galactose metabolism can cause a variety of clinical manifestations in animals and humans. It has been found that the mammalian ovary is particularly susceptible to damage from the accumulation of galactose and galactose metabolites. The galactose metabolites Gal-1-P, galactitol, and UDPgal are all considered to be important in this toxicity and proposed mechanisms include interference with ovarian apoptosis and gonadotrophin signaling. This review addresses the most recent scientific findings regarding the possible mechanisms of galactose-induced ovarian toxicity and also the possible protective role of hormonal and antioxidant therapy. In addition, the available epidemiologic and scientific evidence linking galactose intake with risk of ovarian cancer is discussed.