Masculinized finger length patterns in human males and females with congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Horm Behav. 2002 Dec;42(4):380-6. doi: 10.1006/hbeh.2002.1830.


The ratio of the length of the second digit (2D) to the length of the fourth digit (4D) is greater in women than in men. Since androgens are involved in most somatic sex differences and since the sexual dimorphism in 2D:4D is stable from 2 years of age in humans, it was hypothesized that finger length pattern development might be affected by early androgen exposure. Human females with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) are exposed prenatally to higher than normal levels of adrenal androgens, providing an opportunity to test the effects of early androgen exposure on digit ratios. The 2D:4D was calculated for females with CAH, females without CAH, males with CAH, and males without CAH. Females with CAH had a significantly smaller 2D:4D on the right hand than did females without CAH. Males with CAH had a significantly smaller 2D:4D on the left hand than did males without CAH. A subset of six males with CAH had a significantly smaller 2D:4D on both hands compared with their male relatives without CAH. These results are consistent with the idea that prenatal androgen exposure reduces the 2D:4D and plays a role in the establishment of the sex difference in human finger length patterns. Finger lengths may therefore offer a retrospective marker of perinatal androgen exposure in humans.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / embryology*
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / genetics
  • Adult
  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Anthropometry*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Fingers / embryology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Sex Characteristics*


  • Androgens