Objective: Sex hormone status has been proposed as an important determinant of low bone mineral density (BMD) in both men and women. Our objective was to study the relationship between sex hormones and BMD in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and how steroid therapy affects both.
Methods: We studied 99 men with RA to assess their BMD and sex hormone status. A comparative group of 68 age paired men was used. We made comparative tests, linear correlations, and multiple regression analysis.
Results: We found significant reductions in lumbar BMD (p = 0.0005), femoral BMD (p < 0.0005), salivary testosterone (p = 0.01), androstenedione (p = 0.007), and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) (p = 0.03) in patients with RA. In contrast, serum testosterone concentrations were normal. Salivary testosterone showed correlation with femoral BMD (r = 0.36; p < 0.001). By multiple regression analysis, weight, serum testosterone concentrations, and the cumulative dose of corticosteroids were significant predictors of lumbar BMD (r = 0.41; p = 0.001). Weight, age, androstenedione concentrations, and the cumulative dose of corticosteroids were the significant predictors of femoral BMD (r = 0.79; p < 0.0005).
Conclusion: We confirm there is reduced BMD in men with RA; corticosteroids contribute, but are not the only factor in the pathogenesis of low BMD in patients with RA; we found decreased levels of androstenedione, DHEAS, and salivary testosterone in men with RA; and salivary testosterone, as with free testosterone, is correlated with BMD in patients with RA, with lower levels contributing to low BMD.