Urinary phthalate excretion in 555 healthy Danish boys with and without pubertal gynaecomastia


Mikkel Grunnet Mieritz, Department of Growth and Reproduction, Rigshospitalet, Section 5064, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark. E-mail: mikkel.grunnet.mieritz@rh.regionh.dk


Pubertal gynaecomastia is a clinical sign of an oestrogen-androgen imbalance, which occurs in 40–60% of adolescent Caucasian boys. In most cases no underlying endocrinopathy can be identified. A recent study reports higher plasma phthalate levels in Turkish boys with pubertal gynaecomastia. Therefore, we asked whether there was an association between concurrent measures of urinary phthalate metabolites and pubertal timing as well as the presence of gynaecomastia in otherwise healthy boys. We studied a total of 555 healthy boys (age 6.07–19.83 years) as part of the COPENHAGEN Puberty Study. Anthropometry and pubertal stages (PH1-6 and G1-5) were evaluated, and the presence of gynaecomastia was assessed. Non-fasting blood samples were analysed for serum testosterone and morning urine samples were analysed for the total content of 12 phthalate metabolites (MEP, MnBP, MiBP, MBzP, MEHP, MEHHP, MEOHP, MECPP, MiNP, MHiNP, MiONP and MCiOP) by LC-MS/MS. A statistically significant negative correlation was observed between chronological age and the urinary concentration of the sum of measured metabolites DEHP (∑DEHPm) (r = −0.164) and DiNP (∑DiNPm) (r = −0.224), respectively, and the sum of monobutyl phthalate (MBP) isomers (∑MBP(i+n)) (r = −0.139) (all with p < 0.01). In contrast urinary monoethyl phthalate concentration was positively correlated to age (r = 0.187, p < 0.01). The urinary levels of phthalate metabolites were not associated with age at pubertal onset, serum testosterone levels or presence of gynaecomastia. In conclusion, we did not find evidence of anti-androgenic effects of phthalates in our healthy boys. Thus, current phthalate exposure was not associated with pubertal timing, testosterone levels or with the presence of pubertal gynaecomastia in this cross-sectional study. However, longitudinal studies are needed to evaluate possible perinatal or long-term postnatal effects of phthalates on healthy boys.