What is Estrogen?
Estrogen is known as the “female” hormone. The four major naturally occurring estrogens in women are estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), and estetrol (E4).
Although estrogen is identified with females, it is also found in men.
In women, estrogen helps initiate sexual development, regulates menstrual cycles, and affects the entire reproductive system.
Estrogen in men:
In men, estrogen also plays an important role in sexual function. As teenagers, men have high levels of testosterone and low levels of estrogen. As they age, testosterone levels in men decrease while their estrogen levels increase.
Estradiol (E2) in men is essential for modulating libido, erectile function, and spermatogenesis. Estrogen receptors and aromatase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen, are abundant in the brain, penis, and testis, organs important for sexual function. In the brain, estradiol (E2) synthesis is increased in areas related to sexual arousal. Also, in the penis, estrogen receptors are found. Low testosterone and elevated estrogen increase the incidence of erectile dysfunction independently of one another.
A healthy balance of estrogen and testosterone is important for sexual growth and development. When these hormones become imbalanced, sexual development and function may be affected.
Causes of Increased Levels of Estrogens in Men:
- Testosterone, DHEA, or pregnenolone supplementation
- Excessive aromatase activity (may be seen with obesity)
- Testicular, adrenal, or hepatic tumors
- Hepatic cirrhosis
- Adult-onset adrenal hyperplasia, Adrenal neoplasm
- Consider insulin resistance, as this is sometimes associated with overly active aromatization (testosterone -> E2) in men
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