BACKGROUND: It has been reported that there is a relationship between circulating leptin and sex steroid hormones and leptin is able to stimulate estrogen secretion by increasing aromatase activity in adipose stromal cells and breast tissue. Leptin receptors have been also shown in mammary epithelial cells and it has been suggested that leptin is involved in the control of the proliferation of both normal and malignant breast cells. AIM: To investigate circulating leptin levels in boys with pubertal gynecomastia. METHODS: Twenty boys with pubertal gynecomastia who were in early puberty and had no obesity, and 20 healthy individuals matched for age, pubertal stage and body mass index (BMI) with the study group, were enrolled in the study. Body weight, height and left midarm circumference (MAC) and left arm triceps skinfold thickness (TSF) were measured and BMI was calculated. A fasting blood sample was collected and routine hormonal parameters including prolactin, beta-human chorionic gonadotropin (betaHCG), total and free testosterone, estradiol, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), prolactin, androstenedione (AS) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) levels were studied. Serum leptin levels were analyzed using radioimmunoassay. RESULTS: The mean ages of the study and control group were not different (13.9 +/- 0.89 and 14.2 +/- 0.66, respectively). No significant difference was found for BMI, MAC and TSF values between the two groups. There was no significant difference for hormonal parameters including FSH, LH, total and free testosterone, estradiol, AS, DHEAS and estradiol/total testosterone ratio between boys with pubertal gynecomastia and the controls. Serum leptin levels were found significantly higher in the study group compared with the healthy controls (5.58 +/- 0.81 and 2.39 +/- 0.29 ng/ml, respectively; p <0.001). No correlation could be determined between serum leptin levels and hormonal parameters. CONCLUSION: The presence of higher leptin levels in boys with pubertal gynecomastia indicates that leptin may be involved in the pathogenesis of pubertal gynecomastia. The role of circulating leptin in pubertal gynecomastia is probably related to increase in estrogen and/or estrogen/ androgen ratio by the stimulating effect of leptin on aromatase enzyme activity in both adipose and breast tissues, or a direct growth stimulating effect of leptin on mammary epithelial cells, or increase in sensitivity of breast epithelial cells to estrogen with inducing functional activation of estrogen receptors by leptin in breast tissue.
Leptin levels in boys with pubertal gynecomastia. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2005 October