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BACKGROUND: There have been few studies examining the associations between menstrual irregularity, androgens and bone mass in population-based samples of premenopausal women. This study aimed to describe the associations between menstrual pattern, testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) and bone mass in a population-based sample of premenopausal women. METHODS: Cross-sectional study (N = 382, mean age 31.5 years). Menstrual pattern was assessed by questionnaire, bone mass measured by quantitative ultrasound (QUS) and androgen status was assessed by levels of serum testosterone, SHBG and the free androgen index (FAI). RESULTS: Women with irregular cycles (n = 41, 11%) had higher free androgen index (FAI, P = 0.01) and higher QUS measurements including speed of sound (SOS, 1%, P < 0.05), quantitative ultrasound index (QUI, 7%, p < 0.05), and broadband ultrasound attenuation (BUA, 7%, p = 0.10). These associations persisted after adjustment for age and body mass index (BMI). After further adjustment for hormonal factors (either testosterone, SHBG or FAI), the strength of the associations was moderately attenuated, however, women with irregular cycles still had a 6% increase in mean QUS. Total testosterone, FAI and SHBG were also associated with QUS measures (testosterone and FAI, r +0.11 to +0.21, all p < 0.05; SHBG r -0.14 to -0.16, all p < 0.05) and the associations remained significant after adjustment. CONCLUSION: Irregular menstrual cycles were associated with higher bone mass in this population-based sample of premenopausal women suggesting menstrual disturbance should continue to be evaluated but may be less harmful for bone mass. The association between menstrual irregularity and bone mass was partially mediated by markers of androgen status especially free testosterone.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Musculoskelet Disord

Publication Date





Adult, Androgens, Biomarkers, Bone Density, Calcaneus, Cross-Sectional Studies, Female, Health Surveys, Humans, Menstruation Disturbances, Premenopause, Sex Hormone-Binding Globulin, Testosterone, Ultrasonography