Issue: February 2008
February 10, 2008
1 min read

Consider race, age when evaluating androgen levels in women

Issue: February 2008
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Race may be a predictor of declining androgen levels, according to a recent study.

Androgen levels were significantly lower in black women than in white women; age was also a factor.

Researchers from Emory University compared the effect of obesity and race on declining androgen levels in 260 black and white women aged 15 to 60. The difference persisted after controlling for BMI, insulin resistance and waist-to-hip ratio.

Notably, androgen levels declined in both black and white women, which the researchers said was expected with age. The greatest difference in androgen levels between the two races was among younger reproductive-aged women.

Additionally, race predicted dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, androstenedione and total and free testosterone but not sex hormone binding globulin. – by Katie Kalvaitis

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92:4730-4733.


It is easy to ponder a teleological reason for age-related decrease in androgens in women. After all, androgens are the source of libido and sex-seeking behavior. Without the right touch of testosterone, there is no arousal and no joy in sex. Therefore as a woman ages it would be gentlest to have less of a sex drive that may be frustrated without the resulting reproductive function. However, women in their childbearing years need to have just the right tincture of testosterone to be successful at reproduction and fulfillment. Therefore when a woman has a work-up for sex-hormone-related dysfunction, the laboratory should provide the specific normal range to suit the woman’s individuality. Therefore, the clinician must be aware of age and race specific norms for sex steroids and insist that the laboratory performing the hormonal profile of a young woman publish the normal ranges for age and race in order to appropriately identify the women who have hyperandrogenemia and therefore would merit treatment for the elevated androgen levels.

Lois Jovanovic, MD

Endocrine Today Editorial Board member