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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Identification of virilizing adrenal tumors in hirsute women.

BACKGROUND. Hirsutism in women is usually caused by benign adrenal or ovarian disorders, but it can also be caused by adrenal carcinoma. The most effective way to identify such carcinomas is not known. METHODS. We measured serum and urinary steroids before and after the administration of 3 mg of dexamethasone per day for five days in 14 hirsute women with histologically proved adrenal tumors (12 adrenal carcinomas and 2 adrenal adenomas) and in 73 women with hirsutism of non-neoplastic origin. RESULTS. All the women with adrenal tumors had elevated basal serum concentrations of testosterone or dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, as compared with 36 of the 73 women with non-neoplastic hirsutism (sensitivity, 100 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 77 to 100; specificity, 50 percent; 95 percent confidence interval, 38 to 62). After the administration of dexamethasone, serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate concentrations and urinary 17-ketosteroid excretion decreased to values similar to those in normal women in all the women with non-neoplastic hirsutism, but in none of the 12 with adrenal tumors who were tested. All the women who did not have adrenal tumors had serum cortisol concentrations below 3.3 micrograms per deciliter (90 nmol per liter) after dexamethasone administration, whereas in all 12 patients tested who had tumors the values were higher. The suppression of serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and cortisol and urinary 17-ketosteroid excretion excluded the likelihood of adrenal tumors with a sensitivity of 100 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 74 to 100) and a specificity of 100 percent (95 percent confidence interval, 89 to 100). CONCLUSIONS. Among women with hirsutism, an adrenal tumor is unlikely if the patient has normal basal serum concentrations of testosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate. In women in whom these concentrations are elevated, a tumor is unlikely if the serum concentration of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and urinary 17-ketosteroid excretion are in the normal basal range and the serum cortisol concentration is less than 3.3 micrograms per deciliter after the administration of dexamethasone.[1]


  1. Identification of virilizing adrenal tumors in hirsute women. Derksen, J., Nagesser, S.K., Meinders, A.E., Haak, H.R., van de Velde, C.J. N. Engl. J. Med. (1994) [Pubmed]
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