Anabolic Androgenic Steroid Abuse in Cis-Gender Female Bodybuilder
Journal of the Endocrine Society
Introduction: Anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) are used in bodybuilders to increase muscle mass. Abuse has surged as they are regarded as potent image enhancement drugs. There are a variety of illegal AAS available. Their true content is often unknown and dosing regimens frequently include concurrent use of multiple hormonally active agents. Use among female body builders is rarely reported. Having significantly lower levels of natural testosterone, females may be more susceptible to side effects and toxicity associated with AAS abuse. Clinical case: 36 year old cis-gender female presented to the Endocrinology clinic for evaluation of fatigue. The patient worked as a personal trainer at a gym and began participating in bodybuilding competitions. A year prior to the visit the patient was started on a steroid regimen by a friend at the gym. The patient’s regimen included testosterone cypionate (250mg-350mg a week) and trenbolone acetate. Anastozole was added to limit conversion to estrogen but was not administered on a regular basis. The patient reported no gender dysphoria. She has not had a menstrual period since she started the AAS. The patient was also diagnosed with acute kidney injury at the time of AAS initiation and further work up showed negative ANA, C3, C4, normal UA and protein/creatinine ratio. Her kidney injury was deemed to be related to NSAID and testosterone use. At the time of the visit laboratory results were significant for testosterone of >1500 ng/dl (N 240-1080), IGF-1 359 ng/ml (N 63-223), LH <0.1 mUI/ml (N>0.6), FSH <0.5 mUI/ml (N>1.4), estradiol 47 pg/ml (N 21-251), prolactin 10.8 ng/ml (N 3-30), hemoglobin 17.4 g/dl (N 12-15.1), platelets 416 bil/L (150-400), TSH 0.75 uIU/ml (N 0.4-4.5), creatinine 1.33 mg/dl (N 0.5-1.1), eGFR 53 ml/min/1.73m2. The patient's testosterone regimen was gradually decreased to 100 mg weekly with plans to further decrease the dose and with close follow up and monitoring of gonadotropins. Treatment to stimulate endogenous estrogen production may be necessary despite her current value being within normal limits as this may be a function of peripheral conversion of exogenous testosterone. Conclusion: AAS abuse is infrequent among cis-gender females. Its use in female bodybuilders increases muscle strength and athletic performance. Exogenous administration of synthetic testosterone results in negative feedback on the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, inhibiting GnRH, leading to inhibition of FSH and LH production leading to amenorrhea in females. AAS has also been associated with kidney injury with reports from animal studies suggesting testosterone induced podocyte damage and apoptosis. The steroid regimens used by bodybuilders differ and include multiple hormonally active agents. Its abuse among cis-gender women is uncommon and further research is needed to evaluate its toxicity among this group.
Niedzialkowska EM, Shelden D. Anabolic androgenic steroid abuse in cis-gender female bodybuilder. J Endocr Soc. 2023 Oct;7(Suppl 1):A920-A921. doi:10.1210/jendso/bvad114.1720