Androgen levels in women with various forms of ovarian dysfunction: Associations with cardiometabolic features
Human Reproduction , Volume 30 - Issue 10 p. 2376- 2386
STUDY QUESTION Are differences in androgen levels among women with various forms of ovarian dysfunction associated with cardiometabolic abnormalities? SUMMARY ANSWER Androgen levels differed substantially between women with and without ovarian dysfunction, and increased androgen levels were associated with impaired cardiometabolic features in all women irrespective of their clinical condition. WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY Sex steroid hormones play important roles in the development of cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Extremes of low as well as high androgen levels have been associated with increased CVD risk in both men and women. STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION This cross-sectional study included 680 women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), premature ovarian insufficiency (POI), natural post-menopausal women (NM), or regular menstrual cycles (RC) (170 women per group). PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS Measurements of serum testosterone, androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate were performed using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. Assessments were taken of body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, lipid profiles, glucose, insulin and SHBG, and the bioactive fraction of circulating testosterone was calculated using the free androgen index (FAI). MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE PCOS women were hyperandrogenic [median FAI = 4.9 (IQR 3.6-7.4)], and POI women were hypoandrogenic [FAI = 1.2 (0.8-1.7)], compared with RC women [FAI = 1.7 (1.1-2.8)], after adjustment for age, ethnicity, smoking and BMI (P < 0.001). After adjustment for age, there were no significant differences in androgens between POI and NM (P = 0.15) women and between NM and RC (P = 0.27) women, the latter indicating that chronological aging rather than ovarian aging influences the differences between pre- and post-menopausal women. A high FAI was associated with elevated triglycerides (β log FAI for PCOS: 0.45, P < 0.001, POI: 0.25, P < 0.001, NM: 0.20, P = 0.002), insulin (β log FAI for PCOS: 0.77, POI: 0.44, NM: 0.40, all P < 0.001), HOMA-IR (β log FAI for PCOS: 0.82, POI: 0.46, NM: 0.47, all P < 0.001) and mean arterial pressure (β log FAI for PCOS: 0.05, P = 0.002, POI: 0.07, P < 0.001, NM: 0.04, P = 0.04) in all women; with increased glucose (β log FAI for PCOS: 0.05, P = 0.003, NM: 0.07, P < 0.001) and decreased high-density lipoprotein (β log FAI for PCOS: -0.23, P < 0.001, NM: -0.09, P = 0.03) in PCOS and NM women; and with increased low-density lipoprotein (β log FAI for POI: 0.083, P = 0.041) in POI women. Adjustment for BMI attenuated the observed associations. Associations between FAI and cardiometabolic features were the strongest in PCOS women, even after adjustment for BMI. LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION Associations between androgen levels and cardiometabolic features were assessed in PCOS, POI and NM women only, due to a lack of available data in RC women. Due to the cross-sectional design of the current study, the potential associations between androgen levels and actual future cardiovascular events could not be assessed. WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS This study affirms the potent effect of androgens on cardiometabolic features, indicating that androgens should indeed be regarded as important denominators of women's health. Future research regarding the role of androgens in the development of CVD and potential modulatory effects of BMI is required. STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S) N.M.P.D. is supported by the Dutch Heart Foundation (grant number 2013T083). L.J. and O.H.F. work in ErasmusAGE, a center for aging research across the life course, funded by NestlCrossed D sign© Nutrition (Nestec Ltd), Metagenics Inc. and AXA. M.K. is supported by the AXA Research Fund. NestlCrossed D sign© Nutrition (Nestec Ltd), Metagenics Inc. and AXA had no role in the design and conduct of the study; the collection, management, analysis and interpretation of the data; or the preparation, review or approval of the manuscript. J.S.E.L. has received fees and grant support from the following companies (in alphabetical order): Ferring, Merck-Serono, Merck Sharpe & Dome, Organon, Schering Plough and Serono. In the last 5 years, B.C.J.M.F. has received fees and grant support from the following companies (in alphabetic order); Actavis, COGI, Euroscreen, Ferring, Finox, Genovum, Gedeon-Richter, Merck-Serono, OvaScience, Pantharei Bioscience, PregLem, Roche, Uteron and Watson laboratories. With regard to potential conflicts of interest, there is nothing further to disclose.