Context: In premenopausal and older women, high testosterone and estradiol (E2) and low SHBG levels are associated with insulin resistance and diabetes, conditions characterized by low-grade inflammation.
Objective: The aim of the study was to examine the relationship between SHBG, total testosterone, total E2, and inflammatory markers in older women.
Design and patients: We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study of 433 women at least 65 yr old from the InCHIANTI Study, Italy, who were not on hormone replacement therapy or recently hospitalized and who had complete data on SHBG, testosterone, E2, C-reactive protein (CRP), IL-6, soluble IL-6 receptor (sIL-6r), and TNF-α. Relationships between sex hormones and inflammatory markers were examined by multivariate linear regression analyses adjusted for age, body mass index, smoking, insulin, physical activity, and chronic disease.
Results: In fully adjusted analyses, SHBG was negatively associated with CRP (P = 0.007), IL-6 (P = 0.008), and sIL-6r (P = 0.02). In addition, testosterone was positively associated with CRP (P = 0.006), IL-6 (P = 0.001), and TNF-α (P = 0.0002). The negative relationship between testosterone and sIL-6r in an age-adjusted model (P = 0.02) was no longer significant in a fully adjusted model (P = 0.12). E2 was positively associated with CRP (P = 0.002) but not with IL-6 in fully adjusted models. In a final model including E2, testosterone, and SHBG, and all the confounders previously considered, SHBG (0.23 ± 0.08; P = 0.006) and E2 (0.21 ± 0.08; P = 0.007), but not testosterone (P = 0.21), were still significantly associated with CRP.
Conclusion: In late postmenopausal women not on hormone replacement therapy, SHBG and E2 are, respectively, negative and positive, independent and significant correlates of a proinflammatory state.