Horm Behav. 2007 May

The androgen theory of autism proposes that autism spectrum conditions (ASC) are in part due to elevated fetal testosterone (FT) levels, which are positively correlated with a number of autistic traits and inversely correlated with social development and empathy. A medical questionnaire was completed by n=54 women with ASC, n=74 mothers of children with ASC, and n=183 mothers of typically developing children to test whether women with ASC have an increased rate of testosterone-related medical conditions, and to see whether mothers of children with ASC show similar abnormalities, as part of the ‘broader autism phenotype’.

Compared to controls, significantly more women with ASC reported (a) hirsutism, (b) bisexuality or asexuality, (c) irregular menstrual cycle, (d) dysmenorrhea, (e) polycystic ovary syndrome, (f) severe acne, (g) epilepsy, (h) tomboyism, and (i) family history of ovarian, uterine, and prostate cancers, tumors, or growths. Compared to controls, significantly more mothers of ASC children reported (a) severe acne, (b) breast and uterine cancers, tumors, or growths, and (c) family history of ovarian and uterine cancers, tumors, or growths.

These results suggest current hormone abnormalities in women with ASC and their mothers. Direct investigations of serum testosterone levels and genetic susceptibility to high testosterone production or sensitivity in women with ASC would illuminate the origin of these conditions. The relationship between FT and current testosterone levels also needs to be clarified. The present results may be relevant to understanding the increased male risk to developing autism.

spectrum conditions.Ingudomnukul E, Baron-Cohen S, Wheelwright S, Knickmeyer R.

Autism Research Centre, Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge, Douglas House,18b Trumpington Rd, Cambridge, CB2 8AH, UK. eti20@medschl.cam.ac.uk

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