I was reading up on ethnic groups in which the women are naturally more hirsute (such as South Asian women) in the context of evolving standards of beauty. I came across this statement on a forum:

Hirsutism is much more common in South Asian women (particularly North Indians such as Punjabi Sikhs) asymptomatically because they tend to have higher levels of circulating androgens than your typical [North or Western European ethnic group]. This is also true of Eastern European women to an extent.

Per Wikipedia, I learned:

Circulating levels of androgens can influence human behavior because some neurons are sensitive to steroid hormones. Androgen levels have been implicated in the regulation of human aggression and libido. Indeed, androgens are capable of altering the structure of the brain in several species, including mice, rats, and primates, producing sex differences.

So: do circulating androgens trigger higher testosterone production in some women? Is this what yields higher instances of "hirsutism" among certain populations? How are some women more prone to this than others? (That is, per the forum post, why are South Asian women more likely to have this than Western European women?)

  • $\begingroup$ I'm something of an armchair biologist, so please edit this to use better/more standard terminology as needed. I don't mind at all! $\endgroup$
    – Aarthi
    Feb 5 '13 at 21:21
  • $\begingroup$ Testosterone IS an androgen, so I'm not really sure what you are asking. $\endgroup$
    – Alan Boyd
    Feb 5 '13 at 21:54
  • $\begingroup$ @AlanBoyd Ah! See, that's the piece that I'm missing. I guess then, I'm asking: why do some women have more testosterone than others? And does this directly relate to how "hirsute" she is? $\endgroup$
    – Aarthi
    Feb 5 '13 at 22:05

This review may be of interest:

Sharma D, Shanker V, Tegta G, Gupta M, Verma GK. Clinico-investigative profile of patients of hirsutism in a tertiary level institution. Int J Trichol [serial online] 2012 [cited 2013 Feb 9];4:69-74. Available from: http://www.ijtrichology.com/text.asp?2012/4/2/69/96904

As for the genetic causes of hirsutism, researchers thought the number of CAG repeats in the androgen receptor gene might play a role, but there was no evidence to that effect, as of 2000. I couldn't find any newer papers, but here you go: http://jcem.endojournals.org/content/85/4/1735. This paper was cited by the previous review, but Sharma et al didn't read more than the title, because they cited Calvo et al as evidence for the role of CAG repeats in hirsutism.

tl;dr: read Sharma et al, and look up the references.


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