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Obstet Gynecol. 1997 Dec;90(6):995-8.

Effect of postmenopausal estrogen replacement on circulating androgens.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.



To determine the effect of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) on serum androgen levels in postmenopausal women.


We measured serum dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA-sulfate, testosterone, estradiol (E2), LH, FSH, and sex hormone binding globulin in 8:00 AM fasting serum samples from a previous randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled crossover study in which 28 postmenopausal women (27 naturally menopausal) were given 2 mg/day of oral micronized estradiol. The treatment arms were 12 weeks with a 6-week washout.


Estrogen replacement therapy raised mean (+/- standard error of the mean [SEM]) serum E2 from 8.7 +/- 1.0 to 117 +/- 18.7 pg/mL (P < .001 from baseline). Concurrently, mean (+/- SEM) DHEA-sulfate fell from 67.3 +/- 9.6 to 52.1 +/- 6.4 micrograms/dL (P < .001), and mean (+/- SEM) testosterone fell from 16.1 +/- 2.4 to 9.4 +/- 1.4 ng/dL (P = .006). Both FSH and LH declined significantly. Sex hormone binding globulin increased by 160% with ERT (P < .001).


Menopausal ERT decreases serum androgen levels, decreasing DHEA-sulfate and testosterone by 23% and 42%, respectively. Whereas the decline in testosterone is likely due to decreased LH-driven ovarian stromal steroidogenesis, the declining levels of DHEA-sulfate also may imply a direct adrenal effect of estrogen. Bioavailable testosterone likely is reduced even more profoundly because sex hormone binding globulin is increased 160% by estrogen. Thus, menopausal ERT may induce relative ovarian and adrenal androgen deficiency, creating a rationale for concurrent physiologic androgen replacement.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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