Factors Associated With Circulating Sex Hormones in Men

Ross J Marriott, Kevin Murray, Robert J Adams, Leen Antonio, Christie M Ballantyne, Douglas C Bauer, Shalender Bhasin, Mary L Biggs, Peggy M Cawthon, David J Couper, Adrian S Dobs, Leon Flicker, David J Handelsman, Graeme J Hankey, Anke Hannemann, Robin Haring, Benjumin Hsu, Magnus Karlsson, Sean A Martin, Alvin M MatsumotoDan Mellström, Claes Ohlsson, Terence W O'Neill, Eric S Orwoll, Matteo Quartagno, Molly M Shores, Antje Steveling, Åsa Tivesten, Thomas G Travison, Dirk Vanderschueren, Gary A Wittert, Frederick C W Wu, Bu B Yeap

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: Various factors modulate circulating testosterone in men, affecting interpretation of testosterone measurements. Purpose: To clarify factors associated with variations in sex hormone concentrations. Data Sources: Systematic literature searches (to July 2019). Study Selection: Prospective cohort studies of community-dwelling men with total testosterone measured using mass spectrometry. Data Extraction: Individual participant data (IPD) (9 studies; n = 21 074) and aggregate data (2 studies; n = 4075). Sociodemographic, lifestyle, and health factors and concentrations of total testosterone, sex hormone–binding globulin (SHBG), luteinizing hormone (LH), dihydrotestosterone, and estradiol were extracted. Data Synthesis: Two-stage random-effects IPD meta-analyses found a nonlinear association of testosterone with age, with negligible change among men aged 17 to 70 years (change per SD increase about the midpoint, -0.27 nmol/L [-7.8 ng/dL] [CI, -0.71 to 0.18 nmol/L {-20.5 to 5.2 ng/dL}]) and decreasing testosterone levels with age for men older than 70 years (-1.55 nmol/L [-44.7 ng/dL] [CI, -2.05 to -1.06 nmol/L {-59.1 to -30.6 ng/dL}]). Testosterone was inversely associated with body mass index (BMI) (change per SD increase, -2.42 nmol/L [-69.7 ng/dL] [CI, -2.70 to -2.13 nmol/L {-77.8 to -61.4 ng/dL}]). Testosterone concentrations were lower for men who were married (mean difference, -0.57 nmol/L [-16.4 ng/dL] [CI, -0.89 to -0.26 nmol/L {-25.6 to -7.5 ng/dL}]); undertook at most 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week (-0.51 nmol/L [-14.7 ng/dL] [CI, -0.90 to -0.13 nmol/L {-25.9 to -3.7 ng/dL}]); were former smokers (-0.34 nmol/L [-9.8 ng/dL] [CI, -0.55 to -0.12 nmol/L {-15.9 to -3.5 ng/dL}]); or had hypertension (-0.53 nmol/L [-15.3 ng/dL] [CI, -0.82 to -0.24 nmol/L {-23.6 to -6.9 ng/dL}]), cardiovascular disease (-0.35 nmol/L [-10.1 ng/dL] [CI, -0.55 to -0.15 nmol/L {-15.9 to -4.3 ng/dL}]), cancer (-1.39 nmol/L [-40.1 ng/dL] [CI, -1.79 to -0.99 nmol/L {-51.6 to -28.5 ng/dL}]), or diabetes (-1.43 nmol/L [-41.2 ng/dL] [CI, -1.65 to -1.22 nmol/L {-47.6 to -35.2 ng/dL}]). Sex hormone–binding globulin was directly associated with age and inversely associated with BMI. Luteinizing hormone was directly associated with age in men older than 70 years. Limitation: Cross-sectional analysis, heterogeneity between studies and in timing of blood sampling, and imputation for missing data. Conclusion: Multiple factors are associated with variation in male testosterone, SHBG, and LH concentrations. Reduced testosterone and increased LH concentrations may indicate impaired testicular function after age 70 years. Interpretation of individual testosterone measurements should account particularly for age older than 70 years, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1221-1234
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of Internal Medicine
Issue number9
Early online date29 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023


  • Humans
  • Male
  • Adolescent
  • Young Adult
  • Adult
  • Middle Aged
  • Aged
  • Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Prospective Studies
  • Gonadal Steroid Hormones
  • Testosterone
  • Luteinizing Hormone


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