October 1992

Sebaceous Gland Activity and Serum Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate Levels in Boys and Girls

Author Affiliations

From the Marshall Research Laboratories, Department of Dermatology (Drs Stewart, Downing, and Strauss), and the Department of Pediatrics (Drs Cook and Hansen), University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City. Dr Cook is now with The Children's Medical Center, Dayton, Ohio, and Dr Hansen is with the Virginia Mason Research Center, Seattle, Wash.

Arch Dermatol. 1992;128(10):1345-1348. doi:10.1001/archderm.1992.01680200055006

• Background and Design.—  Increases in sebaceous gland activity are often the earliest sign of the approach of puberty in children. These increases have been attributed to increases in the secretion of adrenal androgens, but the supporting data are sparse and are based on measurements of urinary, rather than serum, androgen concentrations. In this study, we examined sebum composition, serum levels of dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, and pubertal stage in 111 boys and girls, aged 2 to 15 years. Sebum composition was evaluated by measuring the ratio of wax esters/(cholesterol + cholesterol esters), a ratio known to increase with increasing sebaceous gland activity.

Results.—  Both wax esters/(cholesterol + cholesterol esters) ratios and serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels began to increase in children 7 to 10 years old. These changes occurred in many children before the appearance of any physical signs of puberty. Wax esters/(cholesterol + cholesterol esters) ratios were correlated with dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels in both boys and girls. In prepubertal children, the regression lines passed through the origin. In subjects who were in early or late puberty, the y intercepts of the regression lines had positive values.

Conclusion.—  Adrenal androgens appear to be the major determinants of sebaceous gland activity during the prepubertal period and to be additive to another hormone or hormones during puberty.(Arch Dermatol. 1992;128:1345-1348)