To investigate the clinical significance of plasma dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) measurements, 175 patients with histologically confirmed adrenal tumors, 10 cortisol-producing adenomas, 59 aldosterone-producing adenomas, 56 non-hyperfunctioning adenomas, 13 adrenocortical carcinomas, 13 adrenal cysts, and 24 adrenomedullary tumors were studied. Plasma DHEAS levels were expressed as percentage of the mean of sex- and age-matched groups of healthy, normal subjects (DHEAS %). We found that before adrenal surgery, DHEAS % values were significantly reduced in patients with cortisol-producing (mean, 15·2% of control; 95% confidence interval (CI), 9·4–24·7%), non-hyperfunctioning (28·4%; 22·4–36·0% as well as aldosterone-producing adrenocortical adenomas (55·4%; 47·1–65·1%) compared with controls, while values were normal in patients with adrenal cysts and in those with adrenomedullary tumors. Plasma DHEAS % values exhibited a great variability in adrenocortical carcinomas (mean, 84·0%; 95% CI, 33·2–212·5%). Death from adrenocortical carcinoma was more frequent in patients with high plasma DHEAS % values compared with those with low DHEAS %. During long-term postoperative monitoring, we found that plasma DHEAS levels of patients with aldosterone-producing and non-hyperfunctioning adenomas returned to normal in the second and fourth postoperative year respectively. In patients with cortisol-producing adenomas, plasma DHEAS remained suppressed for as long as 8 years after the operation. These findings show that except in adrenocortical carcinomas and cysts, plasma DHEAS levels are significantly decreased in all groups of adrenocortical tumors, including non-hyperfunctioning and aldosteroneproducing tumors. The extent of this decrease and the postoperative persistence of suppressed plasma DHEAS levels may be related to the glucocorticoid production of adrenocortical tumors.
European Journal of Endocrinology 136 290–295