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Open access

E Bahaeldein and M J Brassill

Summary

Postmenopausal hyperandrogenism is a relatively rare diagnosis resulting from excess androgen production from the adrenals or ovaries. The exclusion of malignant causes is a priority. Laboratory tests and imaging are utilised to help differentiate the source of excess androgens. We report two cases of postmenopausal hyperandrogenism in women aged 75 and 67 years. Both cases presented with clinical features suggestive of hyperandrogenism which had developed gradually over the previous 2 years. Laboratory investigations confirmed a significant elevation in their serum testosterone levels. In both cases, imaging did not reveal any abnormality of the adrenals or ovaries. To help differentiate an adrenal vs ovarian source a single-dose GnRH analogue was given with measurement of testosterone and gonadotrophin levels pre and post. The reduction in gonadotrophins achieved by the GnRH analogue resulted in suppression of testosterone levels which suggested an ovarian source. Both patients proceeded to bilateral oophorectomy. Histology revealed a benign hilus cell tumour in one case and a benign Leydig cell tumour in the other.

Learning points:

  • A key part of the work-up of postmenopausal hyperandrogenism is to differentiate between an adrenal or an ovarian source of excess androgens;
  • Imaging may not identify small ovarian tumours or hyperthecosis and may also identify incidental adrenal masses which are non-functioning;
  • Current guidelines suggest ovarian and adrenal venous sampling when imaging is inconclusive but this requires technical expertise and has a high failure rate;
  • GnRH analogue use can successfully confirm ovarian source and should be considered as a diagnostic tool in this setting.
Open access

M A Shehab, Tahseen Mahmood, M A Hasanat, Md Fariduddin, Nazmul Ahsan, Mohammad Shahnoor Hossain, Md Shahdat Hossain and Sharmin Jahan

Summary

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) due to the three-beta-hydroxysteroid-dehydrogenase (3β-HSD) enzyme deficiency is a rare autosomal recessive disorder presenting with sexual precocity in a phenotypic male. Klinefelter syndrome (KS) is the most common sex chromosome aneuploidy presenting with hypergonadotropic hypogonadism in a male. However, only a handful of cases of mosaic KS have been described in the literature. The co-existence of mosaic KS with CAH due to 3β-HSD enzyme deficiency portrays a unique diagnostic paradox where features of gonadal androgen deficiency are masked by simultaneous adrenal androgen excess. Here, we report a 7-year-old phenotypic male boy who, at birth presented with ambiguous genitalia, probably a microphallus with penoscrotal hypospadias. Later on, he developed accelerated growth with advanced bone age, premature pubarche, phallic enlargement and hyperpigmentation. Biochemically, the patient was proven to have CAH due to 3β-HSD deficiency. However, the co-existence of bilateral cryptorchidism made us to consider the possibility of hypogonadism as well, and it was further explained by concurrent existence of mosaic KS (47,XXY/46,XX). He was started on glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement and underwent right-sided orchidopexy on a later date. He showed significant clinical and biochemical improvement on subsequent follow-up. However, the declining value of serum testosterone was accompanied by rising level of FSH thereby unmasking hypergonadotropic hypogonadism due to mosaic KS. In future, we are planning to place him on androgen replacement as well.

Learning points:

  • Ambiguous genitalia with subsequent development of sexual precocity in a phenotypic male points towards some unusual varieties of CAH.
  • High level of serum testosterone, adrenal androgen, plasma ACTH and low basal cortisol are proof of CAH, whereas elevated level of 17-OH pregnenolone is biochemical marker of 3β-HSD enzyme deficiency.
  • Final diagnosis can be obtained with sequencing of HSD3B2 gene showing various mutations.
  • Presence of bilateral cryptorchidism in such a patient may be due to underlying hypogonadism.
  • Karyotyping in such patient may rarely show mosaic KS (47,XXY/46,XX) and there might be unmasking of hypergonadotropic hypogonadism resulting from adrenal androgen suppression from glucocorticoid treatment.
Open access

Philip D Oddie, Benjamin B Albert, Paul L Hofman, Craig Jefferies, Stephen Laughton and Philippa J Carter

Summary

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) during childhood is a rare malignant tumor that frequently results in glucocorticoid and/or androgen excess. When there are signs of microscopic or macroscopic residual disease, adjuvant therapy is recommended with mitotane, an adrenolytic and cytotoxic drug. In addition to the anticipated side effect of adrenal insufficiency, mitotane is known to cause gynecomastia and hypothyroidism in adults. It has never been reported to cause precocious puberty. A 4-year-old girl presented with a 6-week history of virilization and elevated androgen levels and 1-year advancement in bone age. Imaging revealed a right adrenal mass, which was subsequently surgically excised. Histology revealed ACC with multiple unfavorable features, including high mitotic index, capsular invasion and atypical mitoses. Adjuvant chemotherapy was started with mitotane, cisplatin, etoposide and doxorubicin. She experienced severe gastrointestinal side effects and symptomatic adrenal insufficiency, which occurred despite physiological-dose corticosteroid replacement. She also developed hypothyroidism that responded to treatment with levothyroxine and peripheral precocious puberty (PPP) with progressive breast development and rapidly advancing bone age. Five months after discontinuing mitotane, her adrenal insufficiency persisted and she developed secondary central precocious puberty (CPP). This case demonstrates the diverse endocrine complications associated with mitotane therapy, which contrast with the presentation of ACC itself. It also provides the first evidence that the known estrogenic effect of mitotane can manifest as PPP.

Learning points:

  • Adrenocortical carcinoma is an important differential diagnosis for virilization in young children
  • Mitotane is a chemotherapeutic agent that is used to treat adrenocortical carcinoma and causes adrenal necrosis
  • Mitotane is an endocrine disruptor. In addition to the intended effect of adrenal insufficiency, it can cause hypothyroidism, with gynecomastia also reported in adults.
  • Patients taking mitotane require very high doses of hydrocortisone replacement therapy because mitotane interferes with steroid metabolism. This effect persists after mitotane therapy is completed
  • In our case, mitotane caused peripheral precocious puberty, possibly through its estrogenic effect.
Open access

T O’Shea, R K Crowley, M Farrell, S MacNally, P Govender, J Feeney, J Gibney and M Sherlock

Summary

Meningioma growth has been previously described in patients receiving oestrogen/progestogen therapy. We describe the clinical, radiological, biochemical and pathologic findings in a 45-year-old woman with congenital adrenal hyperplasia secondary to a defect in the 21-hydroxylase enzyme who had chronic poor adherence to glucocorticoid therapy with consequent virilisation. The patient presented with a frontal headache and marked right-sided proptosis. Laboratory findings demonstrated androgen excess with a testosterone of 18.1 nmol/L (0–1.5 nmol) and 17-Hydroxyprogesterone >180 nmol/L (<6.5 nmol/L). CT abdomen was performed as the patient complained of rapid-onset increasing abdominal girth and revealed bilateral large adrenal myelolipomata. MRI brain revealed a large meningioma involving the right sphenoid wing with anterior displacement of the right eye and associated bony destruction. Surgical debulking of the meningioma was performed and histology demonstrated a meningioma, which stained positive for the progesterone receptor. Growth of meningioma has been described in postmenopausal women receiving hormone replacement therapy, in women receiving contraceptive therapy and in transsexual patients undergoing therapy with high-dose oestrogen and progestogens. Progesterone receptor positivity has been described previously in meningiomas. 17-Hydroxyprogesterone is elevated in CAH and has affinity and biological activity at the progesterone receptor. Therefore, we hypothesise that patients who have long-standing increased adrenal androgen precursor concentrations may be at risk of meningioma growth.

Learning points:

  • Patients with long-standing CAH (particularly if not optimally controlled) may present with other complications, which may be related to long-standing elevated androgen or decreased glucocorticoid levels.
  • Chronic poor control of CAH is associated with adrenal myelolipoma and adrenal rest tissue tumours.
  • Meningiomas are sensitive to endocrine stimuli including progesterone, oestrogen and androgens as they express the relevant receptors.
Open access

Chrisanthi Marakaki, Anna Papadopoulou, Olga Karapanou, Dimitrios T Papadimitriou, Kleanthis Kleanthous and Anastasios Papadimitriou

Summary

11β-hydroxylase deficiency (11β-OHD), an autosomal recessive inherited disorder, accounts for 5–8% of congenital adrenal hyperplasia. In Greece, no cases of 11β-OHD have been described so far. The patient presented at the age of 13 months with mild virilization of external genitalia and pubic hair development since the age of 3 months. Hormonal profile showed elevated 11-deoxycortisol, adrenal androgens and ACTH levels. ACTH stimulation test was compatible with 11β-OHD. DNA of the proband and her parents was isolated and genotyped for CYP11B1 gene coding cytochrome P450c11. The girl was found to be compound heterozygous for two CYP11B1 novel mutations, p.Ala386Glu (exon 7), inherited from the father and p.Leu471Argin (exon 9) from the mother. Hydrocortisone supplementation therapy was initiated. Four years after presentation she remains normotensive, her growth pattern is normal and the bone age remains advanced despite adequate suppression of adrenal androgens.

Learning points

  • 11β-hydroxylase (CYP11B1) deficiency (11OHD; OMIM +202010) is the second most common cause of CAH accounting for approximately 5–8% of cases with an incidence of 1:100 000–1:200 000 live births in non-consanguineous populations.
  • Two CYP11B1 inactivating novel mutations, p.Ala386Glu and p.Leu471Arg are reported
  • Regarding newborn females, in utero androgen excess results in ambiguous genitalia, whereas in the male newborn diagnosis may go undetected. In infancy and childhood adrenal androgen overproduction results in peripheral precocious puberty in boys and various degrees of virilization in girls.
  • Accumulation of 11-deoxycorticosterone and its metabolites causes hypertension in about two thirds of patients.
  • Diagnosis lies upon elevated 11-deoxycortisol and DOC plus upstream precursors, such as 17α-hydroxyprogesterone and Δ4-androstenedione.
  • The established treatment of steroid 11β-OHD is similar to that of steroid 21-hydroxylase deficiency and consists of glucocorticoid administration in order to reduce ACTH-driven DOC overproduction resulting in hypertension remission and improvement of the virilization symptoms.

Open access

Carla Costa, Cíntia Castro-Correia, Alda Mira-Coelho, Bessa Monteiro, Joaquim Monteiro, Ieuan Hughes and Manuel Fontoura

Summary

The development of male internal and external genitalia in an XY fetus requires a complex interplay of many critical genes, enzymes, and cofactors. The enzyme 17β-hydroxysteroid-dehydrogenase type 3 (17βHSD3) is present almost exclusively in the testicles and converts Delta 4-androstenodione (Δ4) to testosterone. A deficiency in this enzyme is rare and is a frequently misdiagnosed autosomal recessive cause of 46,XY, disorder of sex development. The case report is of a 15-year-old adolescent, who was raised according to female gender. At puberty, the adolescent had a severe virilization and primary amenorrhea. The physical examination showed a male phenotype with micropenis and blind vagina. The Tanner stage was A3B1P4, nonpalpable gonads. The karyotype revealed 46,XY. The endocrinology study revealed: testosterone=2.38 ng/ml, Δ4>10.00 ng/ml, and low testosterone/Δ4 ratio=0.23. Magnetic resonance imaging of the abdominal–pelvic showed the presence of testicles in inguinal canal, seminal vesicle, prostate, micropenis, and absence of uterus and vagina. The genetic study confirmed the mutation p.Glu215Asp on HSD17B3 gene in homozygosity. The dilemma of sex reassignment was seriously considered when the diagnosis was made. During all procedures the patient was accompanied by a child psychiatrist/psychologist. The teenager desired to continue being a female, so gonadectomy was performed. Estrogen therapy and surgical procedure to change external genitalia was carried out. In this case, there was a severe virilization at puberty. It is speculated to be due to a partial activity of 17βHSD3 in the testicles and/or extratesticular ability to convert Δ4 to testosterone by 17βHSD5. Prenatal exposure of the brain to androgens has increasingly been put forward as a critical factor in gender identity development, but in this case the social factor was more important for the gender assignment.

Learning points

  • In this case, we highlight the late diagnosis, probably because the patient belongs to a poor family without proper primary medical care.
  • We emphasize the psychological and social aspects in the sex assignment decision.