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Open access

Johanna Christina Penell, Mark M Kushnir, Lars Lind, Jonatan Bergquist, Jonas Bergquist, P Monica Lind, and Tord Naessen

Objectives

Circulating concentrations of endogenous steroids have systemic implications on health in elderly. However, population-based age- and ethnicity-specific data are scarce. The aim was to report sex-specific plasma concentrations of endogenous sex and adrenal steroids in elderly Swedish Caucasians, to examine the impact of BMI and to present concentrations in apparently healthy subjects.

Methods

A population-based observational study of 70-year olds, including 684 community-dwelling men and women enrolled in the PIVUS study, Sweden. Median plasma concentrations were determined using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) for pregnenolone, 17-hydroxypregnenolone, 17-hydroxy-progesterone, 11-deoxycortisol, DHEA, androstenedione, testosterone, estrone and estradiol.

Results

Plasma concentrations were significantly higher in men (n = 452) than in women (n = 232) for estradiol: median 61.3 pmol/L (95% CI, 11.4, 142.7) vs 18.4 (4.0, 127.3), for estrone: 92.8 (33.3, 206) vs 71.6 (17.8, 209) pmol/L, and for testosterone 13.8 (5.7, 28.0) vs 0.7 (0.2, 2.0) nmol/L. Higher concentrations of estrone and estradiol were observed in obese than non-obese women. Compared to non-obese men, obese men had lower concentrations of testosterone and its precursors: 17-hydroxypregnenolone, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, androstenedione and DHEA. The subgroup of apparently healthy individuals had median values > 20% lower for estrone and estradiol in women but slightly higher for testosterone in both sexes.

Conclusions

Concentrations of estradiol, estrone and testosterone were higher in 70-year-old men than in women. BMI associated positively to estradiol and estrone in women and negatively to testosterone in men. Apparently healthy women had lower median concentrations of estradiol and estrone and men had higher median testosterone compared to all individuals.