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Distribution of Salivary Testosterone in Men and Women in a British General Population-Based Sample: The Third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3)

Keevil, BG and Clifton, S and Tanton, C and Macdowall, W and Copas, AJ and Lee, DM and Field, N and Mitchell, KR and Sonneberg, P and Bancroft, J and Mercer, CH and Johnson, AM and Wellings, K and Wu, FCW (2017) Distribution of Salivary Testosterone in Men and Women in a British General Population-Based Sample: The Third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal-3). Journal of the Endocrine Society, 1 (1). pp. 14-25. ISSN 2472-1972

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Abstract

Introduction: Measurement of salivary testosterone (Sal-T) to assess androgen status offers important potential advantages in epidemiological research. The utility of the method depends on the interpretation of the results against robustly determined population distributions, which are currently lacking. Aim: To determine age-specific Sal-T population distributions for men and women. Methods: Morning saliva samples were obtained from participants in the third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, a probability sample survey of the British general population. Sal-T was measured using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Linear and quantile regression analyses were used to determine the age-specific 2.5th and 97.5th percentiles for the general population (1675 men and 2453 women) and the population with health exclusions (1145 men and 1276 women). Results: In the general population, the mean Sal-T level in men decreased from 322.6 pmol/L at 18 years of age to 153.9 pmol/L at 69 years of age. In women, the decrease in the geometric mean Sal-T level was from 39.8 pmol/L at 18 years of age to 19.5 pmol/L at 74 years of age. The annual decrease varied with age, with an average of 1.0% to 1.4% in men and 1.3% to 1.5% in women. For women, the 2.5th percentile fell below the detection limit (<6.5 pmol/L) from age 52 years onward. The mean Sal-T level was approximately 6 times greater in men than in women, and this remained constant over the age range. The Sal-T level was lowest for men and highest for women in the summer. The results were similar for the general population with exclusions. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first study to describe the sex- and age-specific distributions for Sal-T in a large representative population using a specific and sensitive LC-MS/MS technique. The present data can inform future population research by facilitating the interpretation of Sal-T results as a marker of androgen status.

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