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1.  Steroid hormone levels associated with passive and active smoking 
Steroids  2011;76(7):653-659.
Cigarette tobacco smoke is a potent environmental contaminant known to adversely affect health including fertility and pregnancy.
To examine the associations between second-hand cigarette tobacco-smoke exposure, or active smoking and serum concentrations of steroid hormones using tandem mass spectrometry.
Healthy women (18–45 y) from the general community in the Metropolitan Washington, DC were recruited at the follicular stage of their menstrual cycle. Participants were assigned to one of three study groups: active smokers (N= 107), passive smokers (N= 86), or non-smokers (N= 100). Classifications were based on a combination of self-reporting and serum cotinine concentrations.
Serum androgens, estrogens, progestins, androstenedione, aldosterone, cortisol, corticosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), 11-deoxycortisol and 25-hydroxy-vitamin D3 (25-OHVitD3) and cotinine were measured by isotope dilution tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) (API-5000). Kruskal–Wallis tests were used to assess median differences among the three groups, with Dunn’s multiple comparison test for post hoc analysis.
Serum estrone, estradiol, and estriol concentrations were lower in active and passive smokers than in non-smokers. The three study groups differed significantly in serum concentrations of 16-OHE1, aldosterone and 25-OHVitD3, as well as in the ratios of many of the steroids. Pair-wise comparison of the groups demonstrated significant differences in hormone concentrations between (i) smokers and nonsmokers for aldosterone: (ii) passive smokers and non-smokers for aldosterone, progesterone and estriol. Moreover, for smokers and passive smokers, there were no significant differences in these hormone concentrations.
Smoke exposure was associated with lower than normal median steroid hormone concentrations. These processes may be instrumental in explaining some adverse effects of tobacco smoke on female health and fertility.
PMCID: PMC3635532  PMID: 21396948
Environmental toxicants; Cigarette tobacco smoke exposure; Mineralocorticoids; Sex hormones; Stress hormones; Tandem mass spectrometry
2.  Androgen Concentrations in Umbilical Cord Blood and Their Association with Maternal, Fetal and Obstetric Factors 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e42827.
The aim of this study was to measure umbilical blood androgen concentrations in a birth cohort using a highly specific liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) assay and assesses the effects of sex, labor, and gestational age on fetal androgen levels at birth. We performed a prospective cohort study of androgen concentrations in mixed arterial and venous umbilical cord serum from 803 unselected singleton pregnancies from a general obstetric population in Western Australia. Total testosterone (TT), Δ4-androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone were extracted from archived cord serum samples and measured using LC-MS/MS. SHBG was measured by ELISA; free testosterone (FT) and bioavailable testosterone (BioT) values were also calculated. Median values for all three androgens were generally lower than previously published values. Levels of TT, FT, BioT, and SHBG were significantly higher in male verses female neonates (P<0.0001), while dehydroepiandrosterone levels were higher in females (P<0.0001). Labor was associated with a significant (∼15–26%) decrease in median cord blood TT and FT levels (both sexes combined), but a modest (∼16–31%) increase in SHBG, Δ4-androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone concentrations. TT and FT were significantly negatively correlated with gestational age at delivery, while SHBG, Δ4-androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone were positively correlated. Antenatal glucocorticoid administration also had a significant effect in the multiple regression models. This is the first study to report umbilical cord androgen levels in a large unselected population of neonates using LC-MS/MS. Our findings suggest that previous studies have over-estimated cord androgen levels, and that fetal, maternal, and obstetric factors influence cord androgen levels differentially. Caution should be exercised when interpreting previously-published data that have not taken all of these factors into account.
PMCID: PMC3423422  PMID: 22916165
3.  Androgen conversion in osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis synoviocytes – androstenedione and testosterone inhibit estrogen formation and favor production of more potent 5α-reduced androgens 
Arthritis Research & Therapy  2005;7(5):R938-R948.
In synovial cells of patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), conversion products of major anti-inflammatory androgens are as yet unknown but may be proinflammatory. Therefore, therapy with androgens in RA could be a problem. This study was carried out in order to compare conversion products of androgens in RA and OA synoviocytes. In 26 OA and 24 RA patients, androgen conversion in synovial cells was investigated using radiolabeled substrates and analysis by thin-layer chromatography and HPLC. Aromatase expression was studied by immunohistochemistry. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) was converted into androstenediol, androstenedione (ASD), 16αOH-DHEA, 7αOH-DHEA, testosterone, estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), and 16αOH-testosterone (similar in OA and RA). Surprisingly, levels of E2, E3, and 16α-hydroxylated steroids were as high as levels of testosterone. In RA and OA, 5α-dihydrotestosterone increased conversion of DHEA into testosterone but not into estrogens. The second androgen, ASD, was converted into 5α-dihydro-ASD, testosterone, and negligible amounts of E1, E2, E3, or 16αOH-testosterone. 5α-dihydro-ASD levels were higher in RA than OA. The third androgen, testosterone, was converted into ASD, 5α-dihydro-ASD, 5α-dihydrotestosterone, and negligible quantities of E1 and E2. 5α-dihydrotestosterone was higher in RA than OA. ASD and testosterone nearly completely blocked aromatization of androgens. In addition, density of aromatase-positive cells and concentration of released E2, E3, and free testosterone from superfused synovial tissue was similar in RA and OA but estrogens were markedly higher than free testosterone. In conclusion, ASD and testosterone might be favorable anti-inflammatory compounds because they decrease aromatization and increase anti-inflammatory 5α-reduced androgens. In contrast, DHEA did not block aromatization but yielded high levels of estrogens and proproliferative 16α-hydroxylated steroids. Androgens were differentially converted to pro- and anti-inflammatory steroid hormones via diverse pathways.
PMCID: PMC1257423  PMID: 16207335
4.  Androstenediol Complements Estrogenic Bioactivity during the Menopausal Transition 
Menopause (New York, N.y.)  2012;19(6):650-657.
The perimenopausal increase in circulating dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) levels during the menopausal transition (MT) is accompanied by other adrenal steroids that have the potential to alter the estrogen/androgen balance and explain the wide inter-woman range of estrogen-related symptoms experienced during the MT.
Annual serum samples from the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN), which had previously been analyzed for immunoreactive estradiol (E2), testosterone (T), DHEAS and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), were selected based on DHEAS concentration and analyzed for immunoreactive and bioactive estrogens and androgens, including immunoreactive androstenedione (Adione), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and 5-androstene-3β,17β-diol (androstenediol, Adiol).
A two-fold increase in circulating Adione and T was found to rise in parallel with the rise in circulating DHEAS, while DHEA and Adiol concentrations rose seven to eightfold. Circulating Adiol, which has both androgenic and estrogenic biological activity, was significantly associated (p<0.02) with circulating estrogen bioactivity only when E2 concentrations were low and Adiol levels were high.
The wide range of circulating levels of Adiol and its contribution to total circulating estrogenicity during the MT is consistent with the observed inter-woman difference in symptoms at this time. Therefore, we conclude that Adiol contributes to circulating estrogenicity when E2 production falls at menopause and may contribute significantly to the endocrine changes experienced by midlife women.
PMCID: PMC3366061  PMID: 22415563
Androstenediol; estrogenicity; menopause; adrenal
5.  Birth characteristics and female sex hormone concentrations during adolescence: results from the Dietary Intervention Study in Children 
Cancer causes & control : CCC  2011;22(4):611-621.
Birth characteristics and adult hormone concentrations influence breast cancer risk, but little is known about the influence of birth characteristics on hormone concentrations, particularly during adolescence.
We evaluated the association of birth characteristics (birth weight, birth length, and gestational age) with serum sex hormone concentrations during late childhood and adolescence in 278 female participants of the Dietary Intervention Study in Children. Repeated measures analysis of variance models were used to assess the relationships of birth characteristics and serum estrogens and androgens at five different time points over a mean period of 7 years.
In analyses that did not take into account time from blood draw until menarche, birth weight was inversely associated with pre-menarche concentrations of estradiol, estrone sulfate, androstenedione, testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS). In the post-menarche analyses, birth weight was not significantly associated with concentration of any of the hormones under investigation. Birth length and gestational age were not associated with hormone concentrations before or after menarche.
Birth weight is inversely associated with sex hormone concentrations before menarche in the model unadjusted for time from blood draw until menarche.
The in utero environment has long-term influences on the hormonal milieu, which could potentially contribute to breast cancer risk.
PMCID: PMC3113521  PMID: 21327460
Birth weight; Sex steroid hormones; Breast cancer risk factors; Adolescence; Puberty
6.  Determinants of Maternal Sex Steroids During the First Half of Pregnancy 
Obstetrics and gynecology  2011;118(5):1029-1036.
To examine the associations of maternal and child characteristics with early pregnancy maternal concentrations of testosterone, androstenedione, progesterone, 17-hydroxyprogesterone and estradiol.
We analyzed these hormones among 1,343 women with singleton pregnancies who donated serum samples to the Finnish Maternity Cohort from 1986 to 2006 during the first half of pregnancy (median, 11 weeks). The associations of maternal and child characteristics with hormone concentrations were investigated by correlation and multivariable regression.
Women above age 30 had lower androgen and estradiol but higher progesterone concentrations than women below that age. Multiparous women had 14% lower testosterone, 11% lower androstenedione and 17-hydroxyprogesterone, 9% lower progesterone, and 16% lower estradiol concentrations compared to nulliparous women (all P<.05). Smoking mothers had 11%, 18%, and 8% higher testosterone, androstenedione, and 17-hydroxyprogesterone levels, respectively, but 10% lower progesterone compared to non-smoking women (all P<.05). Estradiol concentrations were 9% higher (P<0.05) among women with a female fetus compared to those with a male fetus.
Parity, smoking, and to a lesser extent maternal age and child gender are associated with sex steroid levels during the first half of a singleton pregnancy. The effects of smoking on the maternal hormonal environment and the possible long-term deleterious consequences on the fetus deserve further evaluation.
PMCID: PMC3207141  PMID: 22015870
7.  Preservation of androgen secretion during estrogen suppression with aminoglutethimide in the treatment of metastatic breast carcinoma. 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1980;65(3):602-612.
We evaluated the comparative effects of aminoglutethimide (AG) on androgen and estrogen levels estrone ([E1], estradiol [E2], plasma dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate [DHEA-S], testosterone [T], dihydrotestosterone [DHT], delta 4-androstenedione [delta 4-A]), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and prolactin in postmenopausal patients with breast cancer randomly allocated to either AG treatment or bilateral surgical adrenalectomy as a control group. In response to either treatment, the plasma levels of E1 fell 62-75% (P less than 0.001) and urine E1 85.7-88.7% (P less than 0.001) in all study days over a 12-wk period. Similarly, the concentrations of E2 in plasma and urine fell 40-72% without statistically significant differences between the two treatment modalities. The relatively weak androgen, DHEA-S, was reduced by 92% (877.3 +/- 184.6 to 71.8 +/- 14.5 ng/ml) at 12 wk in women treated with AG, but suppressed nearly 99% (1,151 +/- 262 to 5.8 +/- 3.3 ng/ml) in adrenalectomized women. At all time points after treatment, the DHEA-S levels were significantly higher in patients receiving AG. Plasma concentrations of the potent androgens, T and DHT, were also relatively preserved during AG treatment. T levels were never significantly reduced by AG, and DHT concentrations were decreased only at the 4th wk to a maximum of 20%. delta 4-A levels fell 56% in response to this drug only on the 12th wk of therapy (basal, 0.79 +/- 0.09 ng/ml; 12 wk, 0.35 +/- 0.07 ng/ml). In marked contrast, all androgens fell significantly at each time period in response to surgical adrenalectomy, with an 81% maximum suppression of T, 73% of DHT, and 97% of delta 4-A. In response to estrogen suppression, plasma levels of FSH, LH, and prolactin did not change significantly throughout the treatment period in either therapy group. To examine possible contributions of the postmenopausal ovary to hormone levels during therapy, data from surgically castrate and spontaneously menopausal women were evaluated separately. No significant differences between the two groups were observed for E1, E2, T, DHT, DHEA-S, delta 4-A, LH, FSH, and prolactin. We conclude that equivalent and highly significant estrogen suppression occurs with either AG or surgical adrenalectomy although androgen secretion is preserved during AG treatment but not after surgical adrenalectomy. The combined effects of estrogen deprivation associated with androgen preservation might be significant in the therapeutic action of AG in hormone-responsive neoplasms.
PMCID: PMC371401  PMID: 6986409
8.  The combined influence of multiple sex and growth hormones on risk of postmenopausal breast cancer: a nested case-control study 
Sex and growth hormones are positively associated with postmenopausal breast cancer risk. However, few studies have evaluated the influence of multiple hormones simultaneously.
We considered the roles of estrone, estradiol, estrone sulfate, testosterone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate and prolactin and, secondarily, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) and c-peptide in postmenopausal breast cancer risk among 265 cases and 541 controls in the prospective Nurses' Health Study. We created several hormone scores, including ranking women by the number of hormones above the age- and batch-adjusted geometric mean and weighting hormone values by their individual associations with breast cancer risk.
Women in the top versus bottom quintile of individual estrogen or androgen levels had approximately a doubling of postmenopausal breast cancer risk. Having seven or eight compared to zero hormones above the geometric mean level was associated with total (RR = 2.7, 95% CI = 1.3 to 5.7, P trend < 0.001) and estrogen receptor (ER)-positive (RR = 3.4, 95% CI = 1.3 to 9.4, P trend < 0.001) breast cancer risk. When comparing the top versus bottom quintiles of the score weighted by individual hormone associations, the RR for total breast cancer was 3.0 (95% CI = 1.8 to 5.0, P trend < 0.001) and the RR for ER-positive disease was 3.9 (95% CI = 2.0 to 7.5, P trend < 0.001). The risk further increased when IGF-1 and c-peptide were included in the scores. The results did not change with adjustment for body mass index.
Overall, the results of our study suggest that multiple hormones with high circulating levels substantially increase the risk of breast cancer, particularly ER-positive disease. Additional research should consider the potential impact of developing risk prediction scores that incorporate multiple hormones.
PMCID: PMC3262212  PMID: 22017816
9.  Mice lacking Mrp1 have reduced testicular steroid hormone levels and alterations in steroid biosynthetic enzymes 
The multidrug resistance-associated protein 1 (MRP1/ABCC1) is a member of the ABC active transporter family that can transport several steroid hormone conjugates, including 17β-estradiol glucuronide, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), and estrone 3-sulfate. The present study investigated the role that MRP1 plays in maintaining proper hormone levels in the serum and testes. Serum and testicular steroid hormone levels were examined in both wild-type mice and Mrp1 null mice. Serum testosterone levels were reduced 5-fold in mice lacking Mrp1, while testicular androstenedione, testosterone, estradiol, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) were significantly reduced by 1.7- to 4.5-fold in Mrp1 knockout mice. Investigating the mechanisms responsible for the reduction in steroid hormones in Mrp1-/- mice revealed no differences in the expression or activity of enzymes that inactivate steroids, the sulfotransferases or glucuronosyltransferases. However, steroid biosynthetic enzyme levels in the testes were altered. Cyp17 protein levels were increased by 1.6-fold, while Cyp17 activity using progesterone as a substrate was also increased by 1.4-2.0-fold in mice lacking Mrp1. Additionally, the ratio of 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase to 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, and steroidogenic factor 1 to 3βhydroxysteroid dehydrogenase were significantly increased in the testes of Mrp1-/- mice. These results indicate that Mrp1-/- mice have lowered steroid hormones levels, and suggests that upregulation of steroid biosynthetic enzymes may be an attempt to maintain proper steroid hormone homeostasis.
PMCID: PMC2862834  PMID: 20178799
Multidrug resistance-associated protein 1; ATP-binding cassette; testosterone; androstenedione; testes; Cyp17; 17β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase
10.  Circulating sex steroids during pregnancy and maternal risk of non-epithelial ovarian cancer 
Sex steroid hormones have been proposed to play a role in the development of non-epithelial ovarian cancers (NEOC) but so far no direct epidemiological data are available.
A case-control study was nested within the Finnish Maternity Cohort, the world’s largest bio-repository of serum specimens from pregnant women. Study subjects were selected among women who donated a blood sample during a singleton pregnancy that led to the birth of their last child preceding diagnosis of NEOC. Case subjects were 41 women with sex-cord stromal tumors (SCST) and 21 with germ cell tumors (GCT). Three controls, matching the index case for age, parity at the index pregnancy, and date at blood donation were selected (n=171). Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) associated with concentrations of testosterone, androstenedione, 17-OH-progesterone, progesterone, estradiol and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) were estimated through conditional logistic regression.
For SCST, doubling of testosterone, androstenedione and 17-OH-progesterone concentrations were associated with about 2-fold higher risk of SCST [ORs and 95% CI of 2.16 (1.25–3.74), 2.16 (1.20–3.87), and 2.62 (1.27–5.38), respectively]. These associations remained largely unchanged after excluding women within 2, 4 or 6 years lag-time between blood donation and cancer diagnosis. Sex steroid hormones concentrations were not related to maternal risk of GCT.
This is the first prospective study providing initial evidence that elevated androgens play a role in the pathogenesis of SCST.
Our study may note a particular need for larger confirmatory investigations on sex steroids and NEOC.
PMCID: PMC3082204  PMID: 21177423
testosterone; androstenedione; 17-OH-progesterone; progesterone; estradiol; pregnancy; non-epithelial ovarian cancer; nested case-control study
11.  Inverse Associations Between Androgens and Renal Function: The Young Men Cardiovascular Association (YMCA) Study 
American journal of hypertension  2008;22(1):100-105.
Men exhibit higher risk of nondiabetic renal diseases than women. This male susceptibility to renal disease may be mediated by gender-specific factors such as sex hormones.
We have undertaken a cross-sectional examination of associations between renal function (creatinine clearance estimated based on Cockcroft–Gault equation) and circulating levels of sex steroids (total testosterone, total estradiol, estrone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S), and dihydrotestosterone) in 928 young (mean age: 18.5 ± 1.2 years) men.
Both androstenedione and DHEA-S showed inverse linear associations with renal function in the crude analysis of lean men (those with body mass index (BMI) less than median). However, only DHEA-S retained its association with renal function in lean subjects after adjustment—assuming no changes in other independent variables 1 s.d. increase in DHEA-S was associated with 13%-s.d. decrease in creatinine clearance (P = 0.004). Testosterone decreased across tertiles of creatinine clearance only in the crude analysis of nonlean (BMI greater than median) subjects (P < 0.001). The adjusted regression analysis that assumed no changes in other independent variables showed that 1 s.d. increase in total testosterone was associated with 11%-s.d. decrease in creatinine clearance of nonlean men (P = 0.006). Factor analysis confirmed an inverse association of renal function with both sex steroids and a different pattern of their loadings on glomerular filtration–related factors in lean (DHEA-S) and nonlean (testosterone) subjects.
Our data may suggest that androgens are inversely associated with estimated renal function in apparently healthy men without history of cardiovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC2808108  PMID: 19096379
12.  Comparison of postmenopausal endogenous sex hormones among Japanese, Japanese Brazilians, and non-Japanese Brazilians 
BMC Medicine  2011;9:16.
Differences in sex hormone levels among populations might contribute to the variation in breast cancer incidence across countries. Previous studies have shown higher breast cancer incidence and mortality among Japanese Brazilians than among Japanese. To clarify the difference in hormone levels among populations, we compared postmenopausal endogenous sex hormone levels among Japanese living in Japan, Japanese Brazilians living in the state of São Paulo, and non-Japanese Brazilians living in the state of São Paulo.
A cross-sectional study was conducted using a control group of case-control studies in Nagano, Japan, and São Paulo, Brazil. Participants were postmenopausal women older than 55 years of age who provided blood samples. We measured estradiol, estrone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), testosterone and free testosterone by radioimmunoassay; bioavailable estradiol by the ammonium sulfate precipitation method; and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) by immunoradiometric assay. A total of 363 women were included for the present analyses, comprising 185 Japanese, 44 Japanese Brazilians and 134 non-Japanese Brazilians.
Japanese Brazilians had significantly higher levels of estradiol, bioavailable estradiol, estrone, testosterone and free testosterone levels, and lower SHBG levels, than Japanese. Japanese Brazilians also had significantly higher levels of bioavailable estradiol, estrone and DHEAS and lower levels of SHBG and androstenedione than non-Japanese Brazilians. Levels of estradiol, testosterone and free testosterone, however, did not differ between Japanese Brazilians and non-Japanese Brazilians. These differences were observed even after adjustment for known breast cancer risk factors. We also found an increase in estrogen and androgen levels with increasing body mass index, but no association for most of the other known risk factors.
We found higher levels of estrogens and androgens in Japanese Brazilians than in Japanese and levels similar to or higher than in non-Japanese Brazilians. Our findings may help explain the increase in the incidence and mortality rate of breast cancer among Japanese Brazilians.
PMCID: PMC3050759  PMID: 21324183
Population-based studies suggest that repetitive cycling of weight loss and regain may be associated with future weight gain. Therefore, to better define the relationship between weight cycling, energy homeostasis, and future weight gain, we examined associations between frequent intentional weight loss and hormonal profiles in postmenopausal women. This cross-sectional study evaluated the relationship between a history of frequent weight loss and biomarkers, including serum glucose, insulin, leptin, and ghrelin, as well as sex steroid hormones. We hypothesized that frequent intentional weight loss would be associated with changes in normal appetite and body-weight-regulatory hormones, favoring increased appetite and weight gain. 159 healthy, weight stable, sedentary, overweight, postmenopausal women who had been recruited for an exercise intervention participated in this study. History of intentional weight loss (frequency and magnitude) was assessed by questionnaire. Hormonal assays were performed by radioimmunoassay (insulin, leptin, ghrelin, estrogens, androgens, and DHEA), chemiluminescence immunoassay (IGF-1), and immunometric assay (SHBG). ANOVA and regression analyses were used to investigate the relationship between weight-loss history and metabolic hormones. A higher degree of weight cycling, characterized by the frequency of intentionally losing > 10 pounds, was associated with an appetite-stimulating hormonal profile, including higher concentrations of ghrelin (p-trend=0.04), lower glucose (p-trend=0.047), and, to some extent, lower insulin (p-trend=0.08). Frequent weight loss was also associated with lower androgen concentrations, including androstenedione (p-trend=0.02), testosterone (p-trend=0.04), and free testosterone (p-trend=0.01). No independent associations between the concentrations of leptin or estrogens and weight cycling were observed. This study suggests that frequent intentional weight loss may affect hormones involved in energy regulation.
PMCID: PMC2992868  PMID: 20417876
weight cycling; dieting; ghrelin; leptin; energy balance; women
14.  The perinatal androgen to estrogen ratio and autistic-like traits in the general population: a longitudinal pregnancy cohort study 
Prenatal androgen exposure has been hypothesized to be linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While previous studies have found a link between testosterone levels in amniotic fluid and autistic-like traits, a similar relationship has not been found for testosterone in umbilical cord blood. However, it may be the net biological activity of multiple androgens and estrogens that influences postnatal effects of prenatal sex steroids. Accordingly, composite levels of androgens (A) and estrogens (E) were investigated, along with their ratio, in relation to autistic-like traits in young adulthood.
Sex steroid data in umbilical cord blood were available from 860 individuals at delivery. Samples were analyzed for androgens (testosterone, androstenedione, and dehydroepiandrosterone) and estrogens (estrone, estradiol, estriol, and estetrol). Levels of bioavailable testosterone, estradiol, and estrone were measured and used to calculate A and E composites and the A to E ratio. Participants were approached in early adulthood to complete the autism-spectrum quotient (AQ) as a self-report measure of autistic-like traits, with 183 males (M = 20.10 years, SD = 0.65 years) and 189 females (M =19.92 years, SD = 0.68 years) providing data.
Males exhibited significantly higher androgen composites and A to E composite ratios than females. Males also scored significantly higher on the details/patterns subscale of the AQ. Subsequent categorical and continuous analyses, which accounted for covariates, revealed no substantial relationships between the A/E composites or the A to E ratio and the AQ total or subscale scores.
The current study found no link between the A/E composites or the A to E ratio in cord blood and autistic-like traits in the population as measured by the AQ. These outcomes do not exclude the possibility that these sex steroid variables may predict other neurodevelopmental traits in early development.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s11689-015-9114-9) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4470005  PMID: 26085846
Androgens; Estrogens; Autistic-like traits; Sex steroids; Cord blood; Perinatal; Autism-Spectrum Quotient
15.  Assisted Reproduction Technologies Impair Placental Steroid Metabolism 
The placenta plays a vital role in pregnancy by facilitating steroid passage from maternal to fetal circulation and/or direct production of hormones. Using a murine model, we demonstrated the differences in placental steroid metabolism between pregnancies conceived naturally and with assisted reproduction technologies (ART): in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). While the ovarian steroid production was similar (estrone, 17β-estradiol) or higher (estriol) in ART pregnancies compared to mating, the levels of placental estriol were significantly lower in ART group. Placentas from ART had significantly higher activities of the steroid metabolizing enzymes UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) and sulfotransferase (SULT), which in ICSI were also coupled with decreased activity of the steroid regenerating enzymes β-glucuronidase (β-G) and Aryl sulfatase (AS). Levels of steroid metabolites androstane-3α-17β-diol glucuronide and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate were higher in fetal compared to maternal blood in ART, but not in mating. This study demonstrates that in murine ART pregnancies, higher metabolism and clearance of steroids by the placenta may seriously affect the passage of essential hormones to the fetus. If a similar phenomenon exists in humans, this could provide a plausible explanation for obstetric and neonatal complications associated with ART, including the higher incidence of low birth weight babies.
PMCID: PMC2702461  PMID: 19406239
ART; IVF; ICSI; Placenta; Steroids
16.  Adiposity and Sex Hormones in Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Survivors 
Overweight and obese women with breast cancer have poorer survival compared with thinner women. One possible mechanism is that breast cancer survivors with higher degrees of adiposity have higher concentrations of tumor-promoting hormones. This study examined the association between adiposity and concentrations of estrogens, androgens, and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) in a population-based sample of postmenopausal women with breast cancer.
We studied the associations between body mass index (BMI), body fat mass and percent body fat measured by DXA scan, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip circumference ratio with concentrations of estrone, estradiol, testosterone, SHBG, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS), free estradiol, and free testosterone in 505 Western Washington and New Mexico postmenopausal women with incident Stage 0-IIIa breast cancer. Blood and adiposity measurements were done between 4–12 months post-diagnosis.
Obese women (BMI ≥ 30) had 35% higher concentrations of estrone and 130% higher concentrations of estradiol, compared with lighter women (BMI < 22.0) (p trend, 0.005 and 0.002, respectively). Similar associations were observed for body fat mass, percent body fat and waist circumference. Testosterone concentrations also increased with increasing levels of adiposity (p trend, 0.0001). Concentrations of free estradiol and free testosterone were doubled to tripled in overweight and obese women compared with lighter-weight women (p trend=0.0001).
These data provide information about potential hormonal explanations for the association between adiposity and breast cancer prognosis. These sex hormones may be useful biomarkers for weight loss intervention studies in women with breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC2996263  PMID: 12743149
Breast cancer; obesity; estrogen; testosterone; sex steroid hormones
17.  Secretion of Unconjugated Androgens and Estrogens by the Normal and Abnormal Human Testis before and after Human Chorionic Gonadotropin 
The secretion of androgens and estrogens by normal and abnormal testes was compared by determining the concentrations of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), androstenedione (Δ4A), testosterone (T), estrone (E1), and 17β-estradiol (E2) in peripheral and spermatic venous plasma samples from 14 normal men and 5 men with unilateral testicular atrophy. Four normal men and one patient with unilateral atrophy of the testis were given human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) before surgery. Plasma estrogens were determined by radioimmunoassay; plasma androgens were measured by the double-isotope dilution derivative technique. Peripheral concentrations of these steroids before and after HCG were similar in both the normal men and the patients with unilateral testicular atrophy. In normal men, the mean ±SE spermatic venous concentrations were DHEA, 73.1±11.7 ng/ml; Δ4A, 30.7±7.9 ng/ml; T, 751±114 ng/ml; E1, 306±55 pg/ml; and E2, 1298±216 pg/ml. Three of four subjects with unilateral testicular atrophy had greatly diminished spermatic venous levels of androgens and estrogens. HCG treatment increased the testicular secretion of DHEA and T fivefold, Δ4A threefold, E1 sixfold, and E2 eightfold in normal men. In the single subject with an atrophic testis who received HCG, the spermatic venous concentrations of androgens and estrogens were much less than in normal men similarly treated. We conclude that: (a) E1 is secreted by the human testis, but testicular secretion of E1 accounts for less than 5% of E1 production in normal men; (b) HCG stimulation produces increases in spermatic venous estrogens equal to or greater than the changes in androgens, including testosterone; and (c) strikingly decreased secretion of androgen and estrogen by unilateral atrophic human tests cannot be appreciated by analyses of peripheral steroid concentrations.
PMCID: PMC301431  PMID: 4271572
18.  Premenopausal endogenous steroid hormones and breast cancer risk: results from the Nurses' Health Study II 
Prior research supports an association between endogenous sex steroids and breast cancer among postmenopausal women; the association is less clear among premenopausal women.
We evaluated the associations between estrogens, androgens, progesterone and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and breast cancer in a nested case-control study in the Nurses' Health Study II. Between 1996 and 1999, 29,611 participants provided blood samples; 18,521 provided samples timed in early follicular and mid-luteal phases of the menstrual cycle. A total of 634 women, premenopausal at blood collection, developed breast cancer between 1999 and 2009 and were matched to 1,264 controls (514 cases and 1,030 controls with timed samples). We used conditional logistic regression controlling for breast cancer risk factors for overall analyses; unconditional logistic regression additionally controlling for matching factors was used for subgroup analyses.
In analyses of premenopausal estrogens including breast cancers diagnosed both before and after menopause, there was no association between follicular estradiol, estrone and free estradiol and risk of either total or invasive breast cancer. Luteal estradiol was positively associated with estrogen receptor positive (ER+)/progesterone receptor positive (PR+) cancers (5th vs. 1st quintile odds ratio (OR): 1.7 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.0 to 2.9), Ptrend = 0.02). Luteal estrone, free estradiol and progesterone were not associated with risk. Androgens were suggestively or significantly associated with risk when the sample was restricted to invasive tumors (for example, testosterone: OR: 1.4 (1.0 to 2.0), Ptrend = 0.23) and ER+/PR+ disease (testosterone: OR: 1.7 (1.1 to 2.6) Ptrend = 0.10; dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) OR: 1.3 (0.8 to 2.0) Ptrend = 0.05). SHBG was not associated with breast cancer risk. The results varied by menopausal status at diagnosis, with follicular estradiol suggestively positively associated with breast cancers in women premenopausal at diagnosis (OR: 1.1 (0.9 to 1.3) and significantly inversely associated with postmenopausal disease (OR: 0.6 (0.4 to 0.9); Pheterogeneity < 0.01).
Androgens were associated with modestly increased risk of breast cancer in this population, with stronger associations for invasive and ER+/PR+ disease. Luteal phase estradiol levels were suggestively associated with ER+/PR+ tumors but no other strong associations were observed with estrogens. Associations with follicular phase estrogens may vary by menopausal status at diagnosis, but case numbers were limited. Additional studies to confirm the role of premenopausal hormones in the etiology of both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer are needed.
PMCID: PMC3672790  PMID: 23497468
19.  Sex hormone changes during weight loss and maintenance in overweight and obese postmenopausal African-American and non-African-American women 
Breast Cancer Research : BCR  2012;14(5):R141.
Changes in sex hormones with weight loss might have implications for breast cancer prevention but have not been examined extensively, particularly in African-American (AA) women.
We conducted a prospective study of 278 overweight/obese postmenopausal women (38% AA) not taking hormone therapy within the Weight Loss Maintenance Trial. All participants lost at least 4 kg after a 6-month weight-loss phase and attempted to maintain weight loss during the subsequent 12 months. We evaluated the percentage changes in estrone, estradiol, free estradiol, testosterone, free testosterone, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) using generalized estimating equations.
In all study phases, AA women had higher levels of estrogen and testosterone concentrations, independent of adiposity. On average, participants lost 7.7 kg during the weight-loss phase, and concentrations of estrone (-5.7%, P = 0.006), estradiol (-9.9%, P <0.001), free estradiol (-13.4%, P <0.0001), and free testosterone (-9.9%, P <0.0001) decreased, while the SHBG concentration (16.2%, P <0.001) increased. Weight change did not significantly affect total testosterone or other androgen concentrations. Compared with non-AA women, AA women experienced less change in estrogens per kilogram of weight change (that is, per 1 kg weight loss: estrone, -0.6% vs. -1.2%, P-interaction = 0.10; estradiol, -1.1% vs. -1.9%, P-interaction = 0.04; SHBG, 0.9% vs. 1.6%, P-interaction = 0.006; free estradiol, -1.4% vs. -2.1%, P-interaction = 0.01).
To the best of our knowledge this is the first study to examine and compare the effects of intentional weight loss and maintenance on a panel of sex hormones in AA women and non-AA women. Although speculative, these data suggest hormonal differences may contribute to different racial patterns of breast cancer incidence and mortality and encourage further investigations to understand the long-term effects of weight loss on sex hormones in obese postmenopausal women.
Trial Registration NCT00054925
PMCID: PMC3635052  PMID: 23113944
20.  Longitudinal associations of the endocrine environment on fat partitioning in postmenopausal women 
Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)  2011;20(5):939-944.
Among postmenopausal women, declining estrogen may facilitate fat partitioning from the periphery to the intra-abdominal space. Furthermore, it has been suggested that excess androgens contribute to a central fat distribution pattern in women. The objective of this longitudinal study was to identify independent associations of the hormone milieu with fat distribution in postmenopausal women. 53 healthy postmenopausal women, either using or not using hormone replacement therapy (HRT), were evaluated at baseline and 2 years. The main outcomes were intra-abdominal adipose tissue (IAAT), subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue (SAAT), and total thigh fat analyzed by computed tomography (CT) scanning and leg fat and total body fat mass measured by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Serum estradiol, estrone, estrone sulfate, total testosterone, free testosterone, androstenedione, DHEA-S, SHBG, and cortisol were assessed. On average in all women combined, IAAT increased by 10% (10.5 cm2) over two years (P<0.05). Among HRT users, estradiol was inversely associated with, and estrone was positively associated with, 2-yr gain in IAAT. Among HRT non-users, free testosterone was inversely associated with, and SHBG was positively associated with, 2-yr gain in IAAT. These results suggest that in postmenopausal women using HRT, greater circulating estradiol may play an integral role in limiting lipid deposition to the intra-abdominal cavity, a depot associated with metabolically detrimental attributes. However, a high proportion of weak estrogens may promote fat partitioning to the intra-abdominal cavity over time. Further, among postmenopausal women not using HRT, greater circulating free testosterone may limit IAAT accrual.
PMCID: PMC3663444  PMID: 22173571
21.  Lifetime cumulative number of menstrual cycles and serum sex hormone levels in postmenopausal women 
Lifetime cumulative number of menstrual cycles is related to breast cancer risk. The aim of this study is to investigate the relation between this index and serum sex hormone levels in postmenopausal women.
Cross-sectional study including 860 naturally postmenopausal Dutch participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Lifetime cumulative number of menstrual cycles was computed using questionnaire data on ages at menarche and menopause, number of pregnancies, breastfeeding, oral contraceptive use (OC) and regularity pattern. Measurements of hormones included estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), andostrenedione, testosterone, sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and dehydroepiandrostenedione sulfate (DHEAS). The relation between the lifetime cumulative number of menstrual cycles and hormone levels was assessed using analysis of covariance. Relations between reproductive characteristics and hormone levels were also studied. Adjustments for characteristics at blood collection included age, years since menopause, BMI, hormone replacement therapy use, OC use, smoking habits, alcohol intake and physical activity were done.
Lifetime cumulative number of cycles was related with SHBG; participants in the lowest category had higher SHBG levels. For the separate characteristics, DHEAS and androstenedione increased significantly with increasing age at menarche, while androstenedione and testosterone decreased with increasing age at menopause. For the parity characteristics, SHBG levels increased according to the number of live births.
Lifetime cumulative number menstrual cycles was related only to SHBG. Therefore, free levels of estrogens or androgens may be related to this number of menstrual cycles estimate, reflecting lifetime exposure to ovarian hormones.
PMCID: PMC2244694  PMID: 18274909
Reproductive Characteristics; Breast Cancer; Sex Hormones; Steroids; Cumulative number of menstrual cycles; Risk Factors
22.  Female social and sexual interest across the menstrual cycle: the roles of pain, sleep and hormones 
BMC Women's Health  2010;10:19.
Although research suggests that socio-sexual behavior changes in conjunction with the menstrual cycle, several potential factors are rarely taken into consideration. We investigated the role of changing hormone concentrations on self-reported physical discomfort, sleep, exercise and socio-sexual interest in young, healthy women.
Salivary hormones (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate-DHEAS, progesterone, cortisol, testosterone, estradiol and estriol) and socio-sexual variables were measured in 20 women taking oral contraceptives (OC group) and 20 not using OCs (control group). Outcome measures were adapted from questionnaires of menstrual cycle-related symptoms, physical activity, and interpersonal relations. Testing occurred during menstruation (T1), mid-cycle (T2), and during the luteal phase (T3). Changes in behavior were assessed across time points and between groups. Additionally, correlations between hormones and socio-behavioral characteristics were determined.
Physical discomfort and sleep disturbances peaked at T1 for both groups. Exercise levels and overall socio-sexual interest did not change across the menstrual cycle for both groups combined. However, slight mid-cycle increases in general and physical attraction were noted among the control group, whereas the OC group experienced significantly greater socio-sexual interest across all phases compared to the control group. Associations with hormones differed by group and cycle phase. The estrogens were correlated with socio-sexual and physical variables at T1 and T3 in the control group; whereas progesterone, cortisol, and DHEAS were more closely associated with these variables in the OC group across test times. The direction of influence further varies by behavior, group, and time point. Among naturally cycling women, higher concentrations of estradiol and estriol are associated with lower attraction scores at T1 but higher scores at T3. Among OC users, DHEAS and progesterone exhibit opposing relationships with attraction scores at T1 and invert at T3.
Data from this study show no change across the cycle in socio-sexual interest among healthy, reproductive age women but higher social and physical attraction among OC users. Furthermore, a broader range of hormones may be associated with attraction than previously thought. Such relationships differ by use of oral contraceptives, and may either reflect endogenous hormone modulation by OCs and/or self-selection of sexually active women to practice contraceptive techniques.
PMCID: PMC2887768  PMID: 20507626
Hormones & cancer  2010;1(4):197-204.
Lavage of the ductal systems of the breast provides fluid (DLF) containing hormones and products of hormone actions that may represent more accurately the composition of the breast than samples collected from blood or urine. The present study was undertaken to assess the presence of potential cancer biomarkers, their variation among individuals at high risk for breast cancer, and differences associated with menopause and tamoxifen treatment.
Seventy seven tamoxifen-eligible subjects with a 5-year breast cancer risk estimate (Gail > 1.6%)(N = 53) or recently diagnosed breast cancer (N = 24) were offered tamoxifen therapy; those not accepting tamoxifen were under observation only. After six months, all subjects underwent ductal lavage (DL) in an unaffected breast. Estradiol (E2), estrone sulfate, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate, progesterone, cathepsin D and epidermal growth factor (EGF) were measured in DLF by immunoassays. Data were expressed as the mass of analyte per mg of protein in DLF and normalized by natural log transformation.
With the exception of DHEA, none of the analytes measured were significantly lower in postmenopausal women than in premenopausal women. The mean loge concentration difference in estradiol was 10.9%. Tamoxifen treatment for 6 months did not result in a significantly greater concentration of E2 or in any of the other analytes in DLF of pre- or postmenopausal women. The between-duct variance of the concentration of free steroids within the same breast averaged 51% less than that between subjects, and was similar to that of non-diffusible proteins.
The maintenance of estradiol concentrations in the breast after menopause demonstrates the importance of local biosynthesis. The fact that DLF E2 does not reflect the high serum concentrations of E2 during tamoxifen treatment indicates that breast concentrations of estradiol may be under feedback control. Unlike studies of low risk populations, progesterone concentrations were not significantly less in postmenopausal than in premenopausal women. The similarity in variance of free steroids and protein analytes between ducts of a breast indicates little transfer of steroids between lobules.
PMCID: PMC3082955  PMID: 21533003
Breast; Cancer; Risk; Lavage; Hormones
24.  Breast cancer survivors who use estrogenic botanical supplements have lower serum estrogen levels than non users 
To measure the association between use of estrogenic botanical supplements and serum sex hormones in postmenopausal breast cancer survivors.
502 postmenopausal women were queried 2-3 years after breast cancer diagnosis about their use of botanical supplements, and supplements were categorized according to their estrogenic properties. Concurrently, a fasting blood sample was obtained for assay of estrone, estradiol, free estradiol, testosterone, free testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and sex hormone-binding globulin. Adjusted means of the serum hormones were calculated by use of estrogenic supplements.
Women reporting use of any estrogenic botanical supplement had significantly lower levels of estrone (20.8 v 23.6 pg/mL), estradiol (12.8 v 14.7 pg/mL), free estradiol (0.29 v 0.35 pg/mL), and DHEAS (47.7 v 56.2 ug/dL) compared to women reporting no use.
Data from this cross-sectional study suggest the use of estrogenic botanical supplements may be associated with sex hormone concentrations in breast cancer survivors. Considering the high use of these supplements among breast cancer patients, further research is needed to clarify the relative estrogenicity/antiestrogenicity of these compounds and their relation with prognosis.
PMCID: PMC3935483  PMID: 18931907
25.  Racial variation in umbilical cord blood sex steroid hormones and the insulin-like growth factor axis in African-American and white female neonates 
Cancer causes & control : CCC  2012;23(3):445-454.
To evaluate whether there is racial variation in venous umbilical cord blood concentrations of sex steroid hormones and the insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-axis between female African-American and white neonates.
Maternal and birth characteristics and venous umbilical cord blood samples were collected from 77 African-American and 41 white full-term uncomplicated births at two urban hospitals in 2004 and 2005. Cord blood was measured for testosterone, dehydroespiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEAS), estradiol, sex-steroid hormone binding globulin (SHBG) by immunoassay. IGF-1, IGF-2, and IGF binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) were measured by ELISA. Crude and multivariable-adjusted geometric mean concentrations were computed for the hormones.
African-American neonates weighed less at birth (3,228 vs. 3,424 grams, p<0.004) than whites. Birth weight was positively correlated with IGF-1, IGFBP-3 and the molar ratio of IGF1 to IGFBP-3, but inversely correlated with the molar ratio of IGF-2 to IGFBP-3. Adjusted models showed higher testosterone (1.82 vs. 1.47 ng/mL, p=0.006) and the molar ratio of testosterone to SHBG (0.42 vs. 0.30, p=0.03) in African-American compared to white female neonates. IGF-1, IGF-2, and IGFBP-3 were lower in African-American compared to white female neonates, but only the difference for IGF-2 remained significant (496.5 vs. 539.2 ng/mL, p=0.04).
We provide evidence of racial variation in cord blood testosterone and testosterone to SHBG in African-American compared to white female neonates, and higher IGF-2 in white compared to African-American female neonates. Findings suggest plausible explanations for a prenatal influence on subsequent breast cancer risk and mortality. Further work is needed to confirm these observations.
PMCID: PMC3333795  PMID: 22252677
umbilical cord blood; IGF axis; sex steroid hormones; African American

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