June 6, 2007 -- Drugs that curb male sex hormones may help treat some women with hirsutism (excess body hair), a new research review shows.
Women have varying amounts of body hair. Hirsutism refers to coarse, dark hairs that grow in areas such as the chin, chest, abdomen, back, or above the upper lip.
Hirsutism in women is usually caused by excessive levels of male sex hormones (androgens), according to background information from the National Institutes of Health.
The new review comes from experts including Brian Swiglo, MD, of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn.
They pooled data from 12 studies of hirsute women who took the drugs including spironolactone, flutamide, or finasteride for at least six months. Those drugs curb male sex hormones (androgens).
For comparison, other women took placebo pills, which contain no medicine, instead of anti-androgen drugs.
Some women also took oral contraceptives or metformin, a diabetes drug that helps control blood sugar and lowers testosterone production.
The review shows that the women's hirsutism was somewhat reduced by anti-androgen treatment. But not all hirsute women got that benefit, note Swiglo and colleagues.
The reviewers write that they found "weak evidence" that anti-androgens are "mildly effective" in treating women's hirsutism.
"We need more research that can tell us if the women themselves notice an improvement," Swiglo says in a news release from The Endocrine Society.
Since anti-androgen drugs can cause birth defects, they should be taken with oral contraceptives in women of childbearing age, Swiglo warns.
The findings were presented yesterday in Toronto at The Endocrine Society's 89th annual meeting.
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