We provide an in-depth review of the role of androgens in male maturation and development, from the fetal stage through adolescence into emerging adulthood, and discuss the treatment of disorders of androgen production throughout these time periods. Testosterone, the primary androgen produced by males, has both anabolic and androgenic effects. Androgen exposure induces virilization and anabolic body composition changes during fetal development, influences growth and virilization during infancy, and stimulates development of secondary sexual characteristics, growth acceleration, bone mass accrual, and alterations of body composition during puberty. Disorders of androgen production may be subdivided into hypo- or hypergonadotropic hypogonadism. Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism may be either congenital or acquired (resulting from cranial radiation, trauma, or less common causes). Hypergonadotropic hypogonadism occurs in males with Klinefelter syndrome and may occur in response to pelvic radiation, certain chemotherapeutic agents, and less common causes. These disorders all require testosterone replacement therapy during pubertal maturation and many require lifelong replacement. Androgen (or gonadotropin) therapy is clearly beneficial in those with persistent hypogonadism and self-limited delayed puberty and is now widely used in transgender male adolescents. With more widespread use and newer formulations approved for adults, data from long-term randomized placebo-controlled trials are needed to enable pediatricians to identify the optimal age of initiation, route of administration, and dosing frequency to address the unique needs of their patients.
Keywords: androgens; mini puberty; puberty; testosterone; transgender; virilization.
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