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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2004 Dec;89(12):6025-9.

Estrogens are essential for male pubertal periosteal bone expansion.

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Division of Endocrinology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.


The skeletal response to estrogen therapy was studied in a 17-yr-old boy with congenital aromatase deficiency. As expected, estrogen therapy (1 mg estradiol valeriate/d from age 17 until 20 yr) normalized total and free testosterone and reduced the rate of bone remodeling. Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry-assessed areal bone mineral density (BMD) of the lumbar spine and femoral neck increased significantly (by 23% and 14%, respectively), but peripheral quantitative computed tomography at the ultradistal radius revealed no gain of either trabecular or cortical volumetric BMD. The increase in areal BMD was thus driven by an increase in bone size. Indeed, longitudinal bone growth (height, +8.5%) and especially cross-sectional area of the radius (+46%) and cortical thickness (+12%), as measured by peripheral quantitative computed tomography, increased markedly during estrogen treatment. These findings demonstrate that androgens alone are insufficient, whereas estrogens are essential for the process of pubertal periosteal bone expansion typically associated with the male bone phenotype.

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