Age, disease, and changing sex hormone levels in middle-aged men: results of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1991 Nov;73(5):1016-25. doi: 10.1210/jcem-73-5-1016.


To evaluate the hypothesis that endocrine profiles change with aging independently of specific disease states, we examined the age trends of 17 major sex hormones, metabolites, and related serum proteins in 2 large groups of adult males drawn from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, a population-based cross-sectional survey of men aged 39-70 yr conducted in 1986-89. Group 1 consisted of 415 men who were free of obesity, alcoholism, all prescription medication, prostate problems, and chronic illness (cancer, coronary heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and ulcer). Group 2 consisted of 1294 men who reported 1 or more of the above conditions. Each age trend was satisfactorily described by a constant percent change per yr between ages 39-70 yr. Free testosterone declined by 1.2%/yr, and albumin-bound testosterone by 1.0%/yr. Sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), the major serum carrier of testosterone, increased by 1.2%/yr, with the net effect that total serum testosterone declined more slowly (0.4%/yr) than the free or albumin-bound pools alone. Among the major androgens and metabolites, androstane-3 alpha,17 beta-diol (androstanediol; 0.8%/yr) and androstanediol glucuronide (0.6%/yr) declined less rapidly than free testosterone, while 5 alpha-dihydrotestosterone remained essentially constant between ages 39-70 yr. Androstenedione declined at 1.3%/yr, a rate comparable to that of free testosterone, while the adrenal androgen dehydroepiandrosterone (3.1%/yr) and its sulfate (2.2%/yr) declined 2-3 times more rapidly. The levels of testosterone, SHBG, and several androgen metabolites followed a parallel course in groups 1 and 2, remaining consistently 10-15% lower in group 2 across the age range of the study. Subgroup analyses suggested that obese subjects might be responsible for much of the group difference in androgen level. Serum concentrations of estrogens and cortisol did not change significantly with age or differ between groups. Of the pituitary gonadotropins, FSH increased at 1.9%/yr, LH increased at 1.3%/yr, and PRL declined at 0.4%/yr, with no significant difference between groups 1 and 2.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Androgens / blood*
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology*
  • Estrogens / blood
  • Heart Diseases / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / epidemiology
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / analysis
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Testosterone / blood*


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Testosterone