Effects of hormonal replacement therapy on plasma sex hormone-binding globulin, androgen and insulin-like growth factor-1 levels in postmenopausal women

J Endocrinol Invest. 1996 Sep;19(8):535-41. doi: 10.1007/BF03349013.


Plasma sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) levels are important in the regulation of plasma free and albumin-bound androgens and estrogens. In postmenopausal women associated to the decrease of estrogen production, a decrease of plasma SHBG levels occurs. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in postmenopausal women modulates plasma SHBG levels, in relationship with the different regimens and routes of administration. The present study aimed to compare the effect of different HRT on plasma SHBG levels in relationship with the changes of plasma androgen [dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS), testosterone (T), androstenedione (A)] and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels. In a retrospective study 443 postmenopausal women were studied and divided into 2 groups. The group 1 (n = 170) was subdivided in 4 groups of women as follows: A) treated with transdermal 17-beta estradiol + medroxyprogesterone acetate, B) treated with oral conjugated estrogens, C) treated with sequential HRT (estradiol valerate (EV) + norgestrel), and D) treated with a combined HRT (micronized estradiol (E2) + noretisterone acetate). Women of group 2 (n = 273) did not receive HRT and served as controls. All groups of women treated with different HRT showed plasma estradiol levels significantly higher than controls (p < 0.01), showing the highest values in women treated with oral HRT. Plasma SHBG levels were not significantly different between patients treated with transdermal 17-beta estradiol + medroxyprogesterone acetate and controls. On the other hand, all the groups of patients treated with oral conjugated estrogen with or without progestagens showed plasma SHBG levels significantly higher than controls (p < 0.01). Plasma SHBG levels were higher in the group treated with estrogen alone than in groups of women treated with sequential or combined HRT. Plasma DHEAS, T and A levels in patients treated with different HRT regimens were in the same range of levels as control women. Plasma IGF-1 levels were not significantly affected by the various HRT regimens and remained in the same range as controls. In conclusion, plasma SHBG levels increase following oral HRT while are not affected by transdermal HRT. Plasma IGF-1 and androgen levels are not influenced from oral or transdermal HRT.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Androgens / blood*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Estrogen Replacement Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Linear Models
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Postmenopause / drug effects*
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin / metabolism*


  • Androgens
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I