Elevated rates of testosterone-related disorders in women with autism spectrum conditions

Horm Behav. 2007 May;51(5):597-604. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.02.001. Epub 2007 Feb 8.


The androgen theory of autism proposes that autism spectrum conditions (ASC) are in part due to elevated fetal testosterone (FT) levels, which are positively correlated with a number of autistic traits and inversely correlated with social development and empathy. A medical questionnaire was completed by n=54 women with ASC, n=74 mothers of children with ASC, and n=183 mothers of typically developing children to test whether women with ASC have an increased rate of testosterone-related medical conditions, and to see whether mothers of children with ASC show similar abnormalities, as part of the 'broader autism phenotype'. Compared to controls, significantly more women with ASC reported (a) hirsutism, (b) bisexuality or asexuality, (c) irregular menstrual cycle, (d) dysmenorrhea, (e) polycystic ovary syndrome, (f) severe acne, (g) epilepsy, (h) tomboyism, and (i) family history of ovarian, uterine, and prostate cancers, tumors, or growths. Compared to controls, significantly more mothers of ASC children reported (a) severe acne, (b) breast and uterine cancers, tumors, or growths, and (c) family history of ovarian and uterine cancers, tumors, or growths. These results suggest current hormone abnormalities in women with ASC and their mothers. Direct investigations of serum testosterone levels and genetic susceptibility to high testosterone production or sensitivity in women with ASC would illuminate the origin of these conditions. The relationship between FT and current testosterone levels also needs to be clarified. The present results may be relevant to understanding the increased male risk to developing autism.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / blood
  • Acne Vulgaris / complications
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / blood
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / complications*
  • Adult
  • Autistic Disorder / blood
  • Autistic Disorder / complications*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Epilepsy / blood
  • Epilepsy / complications*
  • Female
  • Gender Identity
  • Hirsutism / complications
  • Humans
  • Menstruation Disturbances / blood
  • Menstruation Disturbances / complications*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / blood
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome / complications*
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Factors
  • Sexuality / physiology
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Urogenital Neoplasms / blood
  • Urogenital Neoplasms / complications


  • Testosterone