Marked decline in serum concentrations of adrenal C19 sex steroid precursors and conjugated androgen metabolites during aging

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1997 Aug;82(8):2396-402. doi: 10.1210/jcem.82.8.4160.


The present data show a dramatic decline in the circulating levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA-sulfate (DHEA-S), androst-5-ene-3 beta,17 beta-diol (5-diol), 5-diol-sulfate, 5-diol-fatty acid esters, and androstenedione in both men and women between the ages of 20-80 yr. In the 50- to 60-yr-old group, serum DHEA decreased by 74% and 70% from its peak values in 20- to 30-yr-old men and women, respectively. the serum concentrations of the conjugated metabolites of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), namely androsterone (ADT)-G, androstane-3 alpha,17 beta-diol (3 alpha-diol-G), androstane-3 beta,17 beta-diol (3 beta-diol-G), and ADT-sulfate are the most reliable parameters of the total androgen pool in both men and women, whereas serum testosterone and DHT can be used as markers of testicular secretion in men and interstitial ovarian secretion in women. The serum concentration of these various conjugated androgen metabolites decreased by 40.8% to 72.8% between the 20- to 30-yr-old and 70- to 80-yr-old age groups in men and women, respectively, thus suggesting a parallel decrease in the total androgen pool with age. As estimated by measurement of the circulating levels of these conjugated metabolites of DHT, it is noteworthy that women produce approximately 66% of the total androgens found in men. In women, most of these androgens originate from the transformation of DHEA and DHEA-S into testosterone and DHT in peripheral intracrine tissues, whereas in men the testes and DHEA and DHEA-S provide approximately equal amounts of androgens at the age of 50-60 yr. An additional potentially highly significant observation is that the majority of the marked decline in circulating adrenal C19 steroids and their resulting androgen metabolites takes place between the age groups of 20- to 30-yr olds and 50- to 60-yr-olds, with smaller changes are observed after the age of 60 yr.

MeSH terms

  • 17-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / blood*
  • Androgens / blood*
  • Androstenediol / blood
  • Androstenedione / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood
  • Dihydrotestosterone / blood
  • Dihydrotestosterone / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones / blood*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnenolone / blood
  • Protein Precursors / blood*
  • Reference Values


  • Androgens
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Protein Precursors
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Androstenedione
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Pregnenolone
  • Androstenediol
  • 17-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases