Steroid analysis in saliva: an overview

Clin Biochem Rev. 2006 Aug;27(3):139-46.


The first report of steroid analysis in saliva was more than thirty years ago. Since that time its popularity has increased due to the attractiveness of non-invasive, repeated and simple stress-free sampling. It has proved a popular sampling fluid for psychobiology, sports medicine, pharmacology and paediatric studies as well as in the area of complementary medicine. In the diagnostic laboratory, salivary progesterone and oestradiol have been used for assessing ovarian function and 17alpha-OH progesterone for the diagnosis of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). Salivary cortisol is used for investigating adrenal function and recently there has been considerable interest in the use of bedtime salivary cortisol levels as a screening test for Cushing's disease. However, there are several caveats on the use of saliva including collection techniques, the variable matrix of saliva, sensitivity, steroid stability, the presence of binding proteins and reference range anomalies. This brief review will attempt to address these issues and provide a balanced approach to steroid analysis in saliva.