Sex, age, pubertal development and use of oral contraceptives in relation to serum concentrations of DHEA, DHEAS, 17α-hydroxyprogesterone, Δ4-androstenedione, testosterone and their ratios in children, adolescents and young adults

Clin Chim Acta. 2014 Nov 1;437:6-13. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2014.06.018. Epub 2014 Jun 27.


The influence of sex, age, pubertal development and oral contraceptives on dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA sulfate (DHEAS), 17α-hydroxyprogesterone (17-OHP), Δ4-androstenedione (Adione), testosterone (T), calculated free testosterone (fT), free androgen index (FAI) and selected ratios in 1798 serum samples from healthy children, adolescents and young adults was evaluated. Samples were analyzed by Turboflow-LC-MS/MS. Sex hormone-binding globulin was analyzed by immunoassay. All steroid metabolite concentrations were positively associated with age and pubertal development in both sexes and generally higher in males than in females except for Adione. The pubertal rise in T in males was more pronounced compared to females, reflecting contribution from the testes. Ratios between steroid metabolites varied and depended on sex and age. All ratios were lower during infancy compared to later in life. Use of oral contraceptives significantly lowered serum concentrations of all steroid metabolites, fT, FAI, the 17-OHP/Adione, the Adione/T and the DHEA/Adione ratios, but not the DHEA/DHEAS ratio. We provide reference ranges for DHEA, DHEAS, 17-OHP, Adione, T, fT, FAI and selected ratios in relation to sex, age and pubertal development. Use of oral contraceptives strongly influences adrenal steroidogenesis and should be considered when diagnosing and monitoring treatment of patients with disorders of sex development.

Keywords: Mass spectrometry; Reference range; Steroid; Tanner stage; Turboflow.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Androstenedione / blood*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Contraceptives, Oral / administration & dosage*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Progesterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Progesterone / blood
  • Puberty / blood*
  • Puberty / drug effects
  • Sex Factors
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Contraceptives, Oral
  • progesterone 17 alpha-hydroperoxide
  • Testosterone
  • Androstenedione
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Progesterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate