PURPOSE We compared the endocrine effects of 6 and 12 months of adjuvant letrozole versus tamoxifen in postmenopausal patients with hormone-responsive early breast cancer within an ongoing phase III trial. PATIENTS AND METHODS Patients were randomly assigned to receive tamoxifen, letrozole, or letrozole plus zoledronic acid. Serum values of estradiol, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate (DHEA-S), progesterone, and cortisol were measured at baseline and after 6 and 12 months of treatment. For each hormone, changes from baseline at 6 and 12 months were compared between treatment groups, and differences over time for each group were analyzed. Results Hormonal data were available for 139 postmenopausal patients with a median age of 62 years, with 43 patients assigned to tamoxifen and 96 patients assigned to letrozole alone or combined with zoledronic acid. Baseline values were similar between the two groups for all hormones. Many significant changes were observed between drugs and for each drug over time. Namely, three hormones seemed significantly affected by one drug only: estradiol that decreased and progesterone that increased with letrozole and cortisol that increased with tamoxifen. Both drugs affected FSH (decreasing with tamoxifen and slightly increasing with letrozole), LH (decreasing more with tamoxifen than with letrozole), testosterone (slightly increasing with letrozole but not enough to differ from tamoxifen), and DHEA-S (increasing with both drugs but not differently between them). Zoledronic acid did not have significant impact on hormonal levels. CONCLUSION Adjuvant letrozole and tamoxifen result in significantly distinct endocrine effects. Such differences can explain the higher efficacy of letrozole as compared with tamoxifen.