Increased urinary free cortisol and decreased serum corticosteroid-binding globulin in polycystic ovary syndrome

C. Invitti, F. Pecori Giraldi, A. Dubini, M. De Martin, F. Cavagnini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The adrenal participation in the pathogenesis of polycystic ovary syndrome is still under debate. In order to reappraise androgen and glucocorticoid secretion in this disease, we measured serum androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulphate, total and free testosterone, sex hormone-binding globulin, LH, FSH, PRL, cortisol, corticosteroid-binding globulin, and urinary free cortisol in 45 women with polycystic ovary syndrome and 27 controls, subdivided in obese and normal-weight subjects. Androstenedione, total and free testosterone were significantly increased, whereas sex hormone-binding globulin tended to be reduced in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome compared with controls, reaching a significant difference between obese patients and matched controls. Free testosterone and sex hormone-binding globulin were significantly increased and reduced, respectively, in obese compared with normal-weight patients. Urinary free cortisol and serum corticosteroid-binding globulin were significantly increased (p <0.001) and decreased (p <0.005), respectively. Urinary free cortisol exceeded the upper limit of the normal range in 50% of our patients. No appreciable differences were found in PRL and cortisol levels. Besides confirming a hyperandrogenic state, our findings point to an overactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis with subsequent diminution of corticosteroid-binding globulin in polycystic ovary syndrome. They also indicate that urinary free cortisol is not a reliable index in differentiating polycystic ovary syndrome from Cushing's disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-32
Number of pages5
JournalActa Endocrinologica
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1991


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology

Cite this