Androgen secreting tumours (AST) are tumours secreting male sex steroids (androgens) that arise in women and are associated with the development of male physical characteristics, a process called virilisation. Such tumours can develop either in the ovary or, more rarely, in the adrenal gland. We focus here on the adrenal AST. These are simply categorised as either benign (an adenoma) or malignant (adenocarcinoma) tumours.
Androgen secreting tumours are very rare and affect mainly younger women. Approximately 50% of adrenal ASTs affect women under 50 years of age, and 75% of ovarian ASTs affect women under 30 years of age.
There is no specific reason why an androgen-secreting tumour cannot arise in a man. It is diagnosed late when the virilisation is gross or the tumour itself presents symptoms. In its early stage it will be seen as part of the continuum of male physical characteristics.
Like all tumours a genetic element is implicated i.e. a tendency towards developing any tumour may be inherited. Specific environmental factors implicated in the development of ASTs have been found.