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Steve Jobs' Hormonal Imbalance: FAQ

Doctors Weigh In on Steve Jobs' Disclosure of His Hormonal Imbalance
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 5, 2009 -- Steve Jobs today posted a letter on the Apple web site stating that he has a "hormonal imbalance" that caused him to lose weight throughout 2008, and that he's being treated and staying on the job as Apple's CEO.

In 2004, Jobs had surgery to remove a pancreatic tumor, which he called a very rare form of pancreatic cancer called islet cell neuroendocrine tumor.

But in today's statement, Jobs doesn't mention cancer or his 2004 cancer treatment. Instead, Jobs says he has a "hormonal imbalance that has been 'robbing' me of the proteins that my body needs to be healthy."

Jobs adds that "the remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I've already begun treatment," and that it will take him until spring to regain the weight.

What is a hormonal imbalance and what might it mean about Jobs' health? Here's what four doctors -- who aren't treating Jobs -- told WebMD today.

All four doctors said there isn't a lot of medical information in the statement -- for instance, Jobs doesn't say what hormone or hormones are out of balance. But they read between the lines and offered some perspective.

What are hormones?

"Basically, the definition of a hormone is very simple. It's a chemical your body makes in one place that works in another. It has to be something your body makes and has to be made in one cell and work in a different cell," says Robert Lustig, MD, an endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco. Lustig adds that the body makes hundreds of hormones.

The pancreas -- which is where Jobs had his 2004 tumor -- makes hormones including insulin, which regulates blood sugar, and also releases enzymes into the digestive system, says Bernard A. Roos, MD, director of the Geriatric Research Education and Clinical Center at the Miami VA and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

What is a hormonal imbalance?

"The imbalance is a manifestation of something wrong with a gland. But then you have to figure out what's wrong with the gland, and unfortunately we can't tell from [Jobs' statement]," Lustig says.

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