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Physiol Res. 2012;61(1):97-111. Epub 2011 Dec 20.

Chronic cigarette smoking alters circulating sex hormones and neuroactive steroids in premenopausal women.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the First Faculty of Medicine and General Teaching Hospital, Prague, Czech Republic.


Chronic smoking alters the circulating levels of sex hormones and possibly also the neuroactive steroids. However, the data available is limited. Therefore, a broad spectrum of free and conjugated steroids and related substances was quantified by GC-MS and RIA in premenopausal smokers and in age-matched (38.9+/-7.3 years of age) non-smokers in the follicular (FP) and luteal phases (LP) of menstrual cycle (10 non-smokers and 10 smokers, in the FP, and 10 non-smokers and 8 smokers in the LP). Smokers in both phases of the menstrual cycle showed higher levels of conjugated 17-hydroxypregnenolone, 5alpha-dihydroprogesterone, conjugated isopregnanolone, conjugated 5alpha-pregnane-3beta,20alpha-diol, conjugated androstenediol, androstenedione, testosterone, free testosterone, conjugated 5alpha-androstane-3alpha/beta,17beta-diols, and higher free testosterone index. In the FP, the smokers exhibited higher levels of conjugated pregnenolone, progesterone, conjugated pregnanolone, lutropin, and a higher lutropin/follitropin ratio, but lower levels of cortisol, allopregnanolone, and pregnanolone. In the LP, the smokers exhibited higher levels of free and conjugated 20alpha-dihydropregnenolone, free and conjugated dehydroepiandrosterone, free androstenediol, 5alpha-dihydrotestosterone, free and conjugated androsterone, free and conjugated epiandrosterone, free and conjugated etiocholanolone, 7alpha/beta-hydroxy-dehydroepiandrosterone isomers, and follitropin but lower levels of estradiol and sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and lower values of the lutropin/follitropin ratio. In conclusion, chronic cigarette smoking augments serum androgens and their 5alpha/beta-reduced metabolites (including GABAergic substances) but suppresses the levels of estradiol in the LP and SHBG and may induce hyperandrogenism in female smokers. The female smokers had pronouncedly increased serum progestogens but paradoxically suppressed levels of their GABA-ergic metabolites. Further investigation is needed concerning these effects.

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