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A Journal on Endocrine System Diseases

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Minerva Endocrinologica 2007 March;32(1):67-71

language: English

Androgen excess and cardiovascular risk

Rizzo M., Rini G. B., Carmina E.

Department of Clinical Medicine and Emerging Diseases University of Palermo, Palermo, Italy


Cardiovascular diseases represent the major cause of death in most of developed countries and ultimately kill as many men as women. Both genders are exposed to the same risk factors but their rates of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality are very different until old age. This represents a crucial point; in fact, only at age 75 and over cardiovascular rates of women approximate those of men. It has been suggested that differences in hormonal status and mainly in androgen levels may explain such gender disparity. Consistently with this hypothesis, it has been shown that women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have elevated cardiovascular risk despite their young age. However, the possibility that androgens may increase cardiovascular risk remains controversial. Hyperandrogenism, as isolated androgen excess, has not been clearly recognised so far as a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. In addition, the risk of premature cardiovascular diseases in PCOS is at present uncertain. Long-term studies examining the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases among women with PCOS did not demonstrate a clear increased risk for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Thus, it seems that androgens have a limited role in inducing cardiovascular risk; the altered risk factors found in women with PCOS are mainly dependent on the metabolic components of this syndrome as well as on insulin resistance and reduced adiponectin secretion.

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