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Hair on a Woman's Chin Indicates Male Hormone Excess

Tim Boyer's picture

Hair on a woman's chin is one sign that she is suffering from an excess of a male hormone is the finding from a recent study that sought to identify an non-invasive exam for detecting excessive levels of androgens in women. Previously, a nine-point whole body exam was the norm for inspecting a woman’s body for excessive hair growth. Today, according to a recent study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, examining only the chin and the upper and lower abdomen are necessary to determine if a woman has a male hormone excess.

Excessive hair growth, also known as hirsutism, is an unflattering condition for many women that ranks second to obesity in its impact toward negatively impacting a woman’s quality of life and how she and others may see her. According to the study’s lead author Dr. Ricardo Azziz, a reproductive endocrinologist and President of Georgia Health Sciences University, “You cover yourself up at the beach. You don’t want your partner to see you nude. It can be very damaging to your psychosocial well-being,” he said.

However, excessive hair growth on a woman can indicate health problems that can be equally damaging to her physical well-being. Women with excessive hair growth are often obese with irregular menstrual cycles and related health problems as well as experiencing infertility related to ovulation disorders. Hirsutism associated with a male hormone excess is also highly correlated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)—a major cause of infertility as well as a significant risk factor for diabetes and heart disease.

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According to Dr. Azziz, he states that excess hair on a woman’s body is the single most defining feature of an androgen excess disorder such as polycystic ovary syndrome. “Excessive hair growth strikes at the femininity of women. We are talking about terminal hairs that are harder, more pigmented and thicker than the usual soft hairs you see.” He also adds that at least 50 percent of women with excess hair on bodies have an increased risk for insulin resistance, metabolic dysfunction, diabetes and heart disease. “That is why this is such an important marker,” says Azziz.

In the past, the assessment for male hormone excess in a woman was a standardized lengthy physical examination that looked at nine areas of a woman’s body: the lip, chin, chest, upper and lower abdomen, upper arm, thigh and upper and lower back. This examination is considered to be very invasive for the patient and impractical for researchers performing large scale studies.

Dr. Azziz and colleagues wanted to determine if the traditional nine-point exam could be abridged and still be effective as a predictor in distinguishing women who possess a male hormone excess from women who do not. To test the effectiveness of an abridged examination they devised a cross sectional analysis consisting of 1,951 patients who were presenting with symptoms of androgen excess.

Analysis of their results indicated that reducing the 9-point exam to three points using a woman’s chin, upper abdomen and lower abdomen as regions for screening is an effective method for determining whether a woman is hirsute or non-hirsute. Dr. Azziz and his colleagues concluded that scoring terminal hair growth only on the chin and the abdomen can serve as a simple yet reliable predictor of women who have a male hormone excess in comparison to the more invasive traditional 9-point full-body scoring system used previously in assessing women for hirsutism.

Source: “Reanalyzing the modified Ferriman-Gallwey score: is there a simpler method for assessing the extent of hirsutism?” Fertility and Sterility Vol. 96, Issue 5, Pages 1266-1270, November 2011