A longitudinal assessment of hormonal and physical alterations during normal puberty in boys. II. Estrogen levels as determined by an ultrasensitive bioassay

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1996 Sep;81(9):3203-7. doi: 10.1210/jcem.81.9.8784070.


A limited number of reports of estrogen levels in prepubertal and early pubertal boys have been published because previous estrogen assays have lacked adequate sensitivity to quantitate circulating estrogen concentrations. Development of a new ultrasensitive assay has permitted measurement of estrogen levels in 23 normally growing boys progressing through puberty. Concentrations were measured at approximately 4-month intervals over a 5- to 8-yr period. The levels increased with maturation in all and correlated directly with chronological age, bone age, weight, height, pubertal stage, and testosterone and insulin-like growth factor-I levels. Of these factors, the level of testosterone had the greatest influence on the estrogen concentration. The time from peak growth velocity also significantly correlated with estrogen level. The estrogen level correlated positively with growth velocity before the time of peak growth velocity and negatively after peak growth velocity. The estrogen levels first increased significantly an average of 3 yr after pubertal onset and reached a peak by 5 yr after pubertal onset. Peak growth velocity was attained an average of 3 yr after pubertal onset. The greatest increase in the rate of rise of the estrogen level was an 11-fold rise during the year in which puberty began. The next most significant increase was a 4.8-fold rise 3 yr after pubertal onset. With respect to pubertal stage, the greatest absolute change occurred from stage 4 to stage 5 and the greatest fold change occurred from stage 1 to stage 2. The estrogen level did not significantly correlate with the 24-h GH level. In conclusion, circulating estrogen levels are very low in all boys prepubertally and rise steadily during adolescent development. The estrogen level is closely related to testosterone concentration and to the time of peak growth velocity. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that estrogen at low levels augments skeletal growth and maturation in boys (as well as girls). They are also consistent with the hypothesis that continued exposure to estrogen leads to epiphyseal fusion. Further studies are required to define the separate and combined roles of estrogen, GH, and testosterone, as well as other factors, on growth and sexual development at puberty.

MeSH terms

  • Age Determination by Skeleton
  • Biological Assay / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Height
  • Body Weight
  • Child
  • Estrogens / blood*
  • Growth Hormone / blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Puberty / physiology*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / drug effects
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Testosterone / blood


  • Estrogens
  • Testosterone
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Growth Hormone