The use of digit ratios as markers for perinatal androgen action

Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2006 Feb 26:4:10. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-4-10.


Since the ratio of the second-to-fourth finger length was first proposed as a marker for prenatal androgen action in 1998, over 100 studies have been published that have either further tested the association between the digit ratio and prenatal androgens, or employed digit ratios as a marker to investigate the association between prenatal androgens and a variety of outcomes, including behavior, fertility, and disease risks. Despite the clear demand for an adult marker of prenatal androgen action and increased use of digit ratios as such a marker, its validity remains controversial. This review (1) evaluates current evidence for the relationship between digit ratios and prenatal androgens (using experimentation with animal models, amniotic testosterone, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia case-control studies), (2) describes opportunities for future validation tests, and (3) compares the potential advantages and disadvantages of digit ratio measures with more established methods for studying the effects of prenatal androgens.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / metabolism
  • Androgens / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Fetus / metabolism*
  • Fingers / anatomy & histology*
  • Fingers / growth & development
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Animal
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Testosterone / biosynthesis*
  • Twins, Dizygotic / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • Biomarkers
  • Testosterone