Extensive clinical experience: relative prevalence of different androgen excess disorders in 950 women referred because of clinical hyperandrogenism

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2006 Jan;91(1):2-6. doi: 10.1210/jc.2005-1457. Epub 2005 Nov 1.


Context: We undertook this study to estimate the prevalence of the various androgen excess disorders using the new criteria suggested for the diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Setting: The study was performed at two endocrine departments at the University of Palermo (Palermo, Italy).

Patients: The records of all patients referred between 1980 and 2004 for evaluation of clinical hyperandrogenism were reevaluated. All past diagnoses were reviewed using the actual diagnostic criteria. To be included in this study, the records of the patients had to present the following available data: clinical evaluation of hyperandrogenism, body weight and height, testosterone (T), free T, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, progesterone, and pelvic sonography. A total of 1226 consecutive patients were seen during the study period, but only the scores of 950 patients satisfied all criteria and were reassessed for the diagnosis.

Results: The prevalence of androgen excess disorders was: PCOS, 72.1% (classic anovulatory patients, 56.6%; mild ovulatory patients, 15.5%), idiopathic hyperandrogenism, 15.8%; idiopathic hirsutism, 7.6%; 21-hydroxylase-deficient nonclassic adrenal hyperplasia, 4.3%; and androgen-secreting tumors, 0.2%. Compared with other androgen excess disorders, patients with PCOS had increased body weight whereas nonclassic adrenal hyperplasia patients were younger and more hirsute and had higher serum levels of T, free T, and 17-hydroxyprogesterone.

Conclusions: Classic PCOS is the most common androgen excess disorder. However, mild androgen excess disorders (ovulatory PCOS and idiopathic hyperandrogenism) are also common and, in an endocrine setting, include about 30% of patients with clinical hyperandrogenism.

MeSH terms

  • 17-alpha-Hydroxyprogesterone / blood
  • Acne Vulgaris / epidemiology
  • Acne Vulgaris / etiology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alopecia / epidemiology
  • Alopecia / etiology
  • Androgens / blood*
  • Androgens / metabolism
  • Anovulation / epidemiology
  • Anovulation / etiology
  • Body Height / physiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Hirsutism / epidemiology
  • Hirsutism / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hyperandrogenism / blood*
  • Hyperandrogenism / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Ovary / pathology
  • Pelvis / diagnostic imaging
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Testosterone / blood
  • Ultrasonography


  • Androgens
  • Testosterone
  • Progesterone
  • 17-alpha-Hydroxyprogesterone