The 17beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (17beta-HSDs) modulate the biological potency of estrogens and androgens by interconversion of inactive 17-keto-steroids and their active 17beta-hydroxy- counterparts. We have shown previously that flavonoids are potentially useful lead compounds for developing inhibitors of 17beta-HSDs. In this paper, we describe the synthesis and biochemical evaluation of structurally analogous inhibitors, the trans-cinnamic acid esters and related compounds. Additionally, quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) and modelling studies were performed to rationalize the results and to suggest further optimization. The results stress the importance of a hydrogen bond with Asn154 and hydrophobic interactions with the aromatic side chain of Tyr212 for optimal molecular recognition.