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Androstenedione

Androstenedione and related molecules, if given in sufficient quantities and for sufficient duration, are likely to cause androgenic (and thus anabolic) or estrogenic effects in humans. Although these compounds possess at most weak intrinsic androgenic activity, they are prohormones for both androgens (testosterone) and estrogens. The biochemical evidence supporting the effect of androstenedione to raise circulating levels of testosterone and estrogens is strong. This, in conjunction with the known potential for site-of-action direct conversion of androstenedione to testosterone, leads to a conclusion of a direct relationship between risk of androgenic or estrogenic effects of treatment and dose and duration of treatment. In particular, androstenedione and related molecules consumed in sufficient quantities to have any anabolic effects will confer androgenic and estrogenic risks, although risks may also be present with consumption that is not sufficient to produce obvious anabolic effects.

Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to irreversible effects of androstenedione via its conversion to active sex steroids. These effects include disruption of normal sexual development, specifically virilization in girls associated with severe acne, excessive body and facial hair, deepening of the voice, permanent enlargement of the clitoris, disruption of the menstrual cycle, and infertility. The conversion to estrogens can cause feminization of boys, with breast enlargement and testicular atrophy. In girls, exposure to excess estrogens may confer long-term increased risk for breast and uterine cancer. Finally, in boys and girls, the combined effects of excessive androgens and estrogens can induce premature puberty, early closure of the growth plates of long bones, resulting in significant compromise of adult stature.

 

 
     
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