Cortisol: Chronic Stress Increases the Risk of Early Puberty

Scientists are trying to understand how childhood adversity affects puberty, but linking the two is difficult. Hair cortisol concentration (HCC) is a potentially useful biological marker of chronic stress. However, previous studies were unable to link childhood adversity to puberty in boys.

Research published in JAMA Pediatrics by Ying Sun and colleagues examined HCC and pubertal development in 1263 elementary school-aged children (age range 6.4 – 9.9 years) in China. Cortisol was extracted from hair samples and measured using a commercially available cortisol test kit.

For girls, breast development was assessed by the same pediatric endocrinologist using Breast Tanner stages, a scale of physical development. For boys, a Prader orchidometer was used to estimate testicular volume. The study found no difference in cortisol levels between boys and girls. Early breast development was significantly higher for girls with the HCC levels in the third and fourth quartile compared to those with lower HCC levels. Overall, the investigators found a 2.5-fold increase in the risk of early breast development in girls in the highest quartile of HCC compared to those in the lowest quartile.

Similarly, testicular volume in boys was significantly correlated (p< .001) with HCC, those with higher levels of HCC had larger mean testicular volumes. A 0.12-milliliter increase in testicular volume was observed with each quartile increase in HCC in boys.

This is the first study to measure the cortisol level in hair of children in relation to puberty. Scientists hope that additional studies will help us better understand the timing of puberty and how chronic stress increases the risk of early puberty.

Written By: Cindi A. Hoover, Ph.D.


Sloan Kettering (New York City) Clinical Trials & Research


Clinical trials are research studies that test new treatments to see how well they work. Our Pituitary and Skull Base Tumor Center is leading clinical trials investigating new medical therapies for patients with Cushing’s disease and acromegaly. They are also involved in quality-of-life studies aimed at improving long-term follow-up care for patients who need it.

Our experts can help determine which clinical trials are right for you. The following clinical trials for pituitary tumors are currently enrolling new patients.

To learn more about a particular study, choose from the list below. For more information about our research and clinical trials, call us at 212-639-3935, or talk with your doctor.

A retrospective analysis of postoperative hypokalemia in pituitary adenomas after transsphenoidal surgery



Pituitary adenoma is one of the most common intracranial neoplasms, and its primary treatment is endoscopic endonasal transsphenoidal tumorectomy. Postoperative hypokalemia in these patients is a common complication, and is associated with morbidity and mortality. This study aimed to analyze the etiopathology of postoperative hypokalemia in pituitary adenomas after endoscopic transsphenoidal surgery.

Methods and Materials

This retrospective study included 181 pituitary adenomas confirmed by histopathology. Unconditional logistic regression analysis was used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Repeated measures ANOVA was used to analyze change in serum potassium levels at different time points.


Multiple Logistic regression analysis revealed that only ACTH-pituitary adenoma (OR = 4.92, 95% CI [1.18–20.48], P = 0.029) had a significant association with postoperative hypokalemia. Moreover, the overall mean serum potassium concentration was significantly lower in the ACTH versus the non-ACTH group (3.34 mmol/L vs. 3.79 mmol/L, P = 0.001). Postoperative hypokalemia was predominantly found in patients with ACTH-pituitary adenoma (P = 0.033).


ACTH-pituitary adenomas may be an independent factor related postoperative hypokalemia in patients despite conventional potassium supplementation in the immediate postoperative period.

Cite this as

You L, Li W, Chen T, Tang D, You J, Zhang X. (2017) A retrospective analysis of postoperative hypokalemia in pituitary adenomas after transsphenoidal surgery. PeerJ5:e3337

Read the entire article at

Cushing’s Testing at NIH

Rank Status Study
1 Recruiting Study to Evaluate CORT125134 in Patients With Cushing’s Syndrome

Condition: Cushing’s Syndrome
Intervention: Drug: CORT125134
2 Recruiting Cushing’s Disease Complications

Condition: Cushing’s Disease
Intervention: Other: Exams and questionnaires
3 Recruiting The Accuracy of Late Night Urinary Free Cortisol/Creatinine and Hair Cortisol in Cushing’s Syndrome Diagnosis

Condition: Cushing Syndrome
4 Recruiting Treatment for Endogenous Cushing’s Syndrome

Condition: Endogenous Cushing’s Syndrome
Intervention: Drug: COR-003
5 Recruiting Saliva Cortisol Measurement as a Screening Test for Suspicious Cushings Syndrome in Children.

Condition: Cushings Syndrome
Intervention: Other: Children refered to the obesity clinic
6 Recruiting Safety and Efficacy of LCI699 for the Treatment of Patients With Cushing’s Disease

Condition: Cushing’s Disease
Intervention: Drug: LCI699
7 Recruiting Treatment of Cushing’s Disease With R-roscovitine

Condition: Cushings Disease
Intervention: Drug: R-roscovitine
8 Recruiting A Study of ATR-101 for the Treatment of Endogenous Cushing’s Syndrome

Condition: Cushing Syndrome
Interventions: Drug: ATR-101;   Drug: Placebos
9 Recruiting Evaluation of 68Ga-DOTATATE PET/CT, Octreotide and F-DOPA PET Imaging in Patients With Ectopic Cushing Syndrome

Condition: Cushing Syndrome
Interventions: Drug: F-DOPA PET Scan;   Drug: Mifepristone;   Drug: Ga-DOTATATE;   Drug: Octreoscan;   Other: CT, MRI
10 Not yet recruiting Endocrine Cardiomyopathy in Cushing Syndrome: Response to Cyclic GMP PDE5 inhibitOrs

Condition: Cushing’s Syndrome Cardiomyopathy
Intervention: Drug: Tadalafil
11 Recruiting Long-term Beneficial Metabolic Effects of Adrenalectomy in Subclinical Cushing’s Syndrome of Adrenal Incidentaloma

Condition: Cushing Syndrome
Intervention: Procedure: surgery
12 Recruiting Long Term Safety and Efficacy of Pasireotide s.c. in Patients With Cushing’s Disease

Condition: Cushings Disease
Intervention: Drug: SOM230
13 Recruiting New Imaging Techniques in the Evaluation of Patients With Ectopic Cushing Syndrome

Condition: Cushing Syndrome
Interventions: Drug: Pentetreotide;   Drug: 18-F-fluorodeoxyglucose;   Drug: (18F)-L-3,4-dihydroxyophenylalanine (18F-DOPA)
14 Not yet recruiting Targeting Iatrogenic Cushing’s Syndrome With 11β-hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1 Inhibition

Condition: Iatrogenic Cushing’s Disease
Interventions: Drug: AZD4017 and prednisolone;   Drug: Placebo Oral Tablet and prednisolone
15 Not yet recruiting Assessment of Persistent Cognitive Impairment After Cure of Cushing’s Disease

Condition: Cushing’s Disease
Intervention: Device: Virtual radial task in 3D
16 Recruiting Biomarker Expression in Patients With ACTH-Dependent Cushing’s Syndrome Before and After Surgery

Condition: Cushing’s Syndrome
17 Recruiting Efficacy and Safety Evaluation of Osilodrostat in Cushing’s Disease

Condition: Cushing’s Disease
Interventions: Drug: osilodrostat;   Drug: osilodrostat Placebo
18 Recruiting Effects of Metyrapone in Patients With Endogenous Cushing’s Syndrome

Condition: Cushing’s Syndrome
Intervention: Drug: metyrapone
19 Recruiting Adrenal Venous Sampling in Patients With Overt or Subclinical Cushings Syndrome, and Bilateral Adrenal Tumors

Condition: Cushing Syndrome
Intervention: Radiation: Adrenal venous sampling
20 Recruiting Glycemic Fluctuations in Newly Diagnosed Growth Hormone-Secreting Pituitary Adenoma and Cushing Syndrome Subjects

Condition: Pituitary Adenoma
Intervention: Device: continuous glucose monitoring
Rank Status Study
21 Recruiting Targeted Therapy With Gefitinib in Patients With USP8-mutated Cushing’s Disease

Conditions: Cushing’s Disease;   Corticotrophin Adenoma
Intervention: Drug: Gefitinib
22 Recruiting Cardiac Steatosis in Cushing’s Syndrome

Conditions: Endocrine System Disease;   Cardiovascular Imaging
Intervention: Other: 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy and CMRI
23 Recruiting Study of Management of Pasireotide-induced Hyperglycemia in Adult Patients With Cushing’s Disease or Acromegaly

Conditions: Cushing’s Disease;   Acromegaly
Interventions: Drug: Pasireotide s.c.;   Drug: Sitagliptin;   Drug: Liraglutide;   Drug: Insulin;   Drug: Pasireotide LAR;   Drug: Metformin
24 Recruiting Study of Efficacy and Safety of Osilodrostat in Cushing’s Syndrome

Conditions: Cushing’s Syndrome;   Ectopic Corticotropin Syndrome;   Adrenal Adenoma;   Adrenal Carcinoma;   AIMAH;   PPNAD
Intervention: Drug: Osilodrostat
25 Recruiting Effects of Hormone Stimulation on Brain Scans for Cushing s Disease

Condition: Pituitary Neoplasm
Intervention: Drug: Acthrel
26 Recruiting Does Serum-DXM Increase Diagnostic Accuracy of the Overnight DXM Suppression Test in the Work-up of Cushing’s Syndrome?

Conditions: Cushing’s Syndrome;   Adrenal Incidentalomas;   Alcoholism;   Obesity
27 Recruiting Adrenalectomy Versus Follow-up in Patients With Subclinical Cushings Syndrome

Condition: Adrenal Tumour With Mild Hypercortisolism
Intervention: Procedure: Adrenalectomy
28 Recruiting Study of Adrenalectomy Versus Observation for Subclinical Hypercortisolism

Conditions: Hypercortisolism;   Cushing Syndrome
Interventions: Procedure: Adrenalectomy;   Other: Observation
29 Not yet recruiting Dynamic Hormone Diagnostics in Endocrine Disease

Conditions: Adrenal Insufficiency;   Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia;   Cushing Syndrome;   Growth Hormone Deficiency;   Acromegaly;   Primary Hyperaldosteronism
Intervention: Other: 27 hour subcutaneous fluid sampling
30 Recruiting An Investigation of Pituitary Tumors and Related Hypothalmic Disorders

Conditions: Abnormalities;   Craniopharyngioma;   Cushing’s Syndrome;   Endocrine Disease;   Pituitary Neoplasm
31 Recruiting Ga-68-DOTATOC -PET in the Management of Pituitary Tumours

Condition: Pituitary Tumours
Intervention: Procedure: Gallium-68 DOTATOC PET
32 Recruiting Efficacy of Mifepristone in Males With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Conditions: Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus;   Insulin Resistance
Interventions: Drug: Mifepristone 600 mg daily;   Drug: Placebo
33 Recruiting Targeted Therapy With Lapatinib in Patients With Recurrent Pituitary Tumors Resistant to Standard Therapy

Conditions: Pituitary Adenomas;   Prolactinomas
Intervention: Drug: Lapatinib
34 Recruiting Mutations of Glucocorticoid Receptor in Bilateral Adrenal Hyperplasia

Condition: General Glucocorticoid Resistance
Intervention: Genetic: blood collection for mutation characterization
35 Recruiting Defining the Genetic Basis for the Development of Primary Pigmented Nodular Adrenocortical Disease (PPNAD) and the Carney Complex

Conditions: Cushing’s Syndrome;   Hereditary Neoplastic Syndrome;   Lentigo;   Neoplasm;   Testicular Neoplasm
36 Not yet recruiting Reduction by Pasireotide of the Effluent Volume in High-output Enterostomy in Patients Refractory to Usual Medical Treatment

Condition: Enterostomy
Interventions: Drug: Pasireotide;   Drug: Placebo
37 Recruiting Mifepristone for Breast Cancer Patients With Higher Levels of Progesterone Receptor Isoform A Than Isoform B.

Condition: Breast Cancer
Intervention: Drug: Mifepristone
38 Recruiting SOM230 Ectopic ACTH-producing Tumors

Condition: Ectopic ACTH Syndrome
Intervention: Drug: Pasireotide
39 Recruiting Decreasing Rates of Intraurethral Catheterization Postoperatively in Spine Surgery

Condition: Post-operative Urinary Retention
Interventions: Drug: Tamsulosin;   Drug: Placebo
40 Recruiting Adrenal Tumors – Pathogenesis and Therapy

Conditions: Adrenal Tumors;   Adrenocortical Carcinoma;   Cushing Syndrome;   Conn Syndrome;   Pheochromocytoma

Basal Cortisol Elevated in Patients with ACTH-Staining Pituitary Macroadenoma

Preoperative identification of patients with silent adrenocorticotrophic hormone-secreting tumors could potentially change the approach to management. A new study aimed to determine whether a preoperative adrenocorticotrophic hormone stimulation test for evaluation of nonfunctional pituitary macroadenoma could aid in identifying adrenocorticotrophic hormone-staining pathology yielded large variability and did not allow clinical utility.

Thus, researchers concluded that larger, multicenter research is needed to determine whether this test can be useful.

“As ACTH stimulation tests are performed routinely when evaluating macroadenoma when there is no suspicion for a state of endogenous hypercortisolism, we sought to determine if the test could reliably identify these pathologies during the preoperative evaluation. We hypothesized that patients with subclinical Cushing’s disease or silent ACTH-secreting tumors would have a higher delta cortisol on the ACTH stimulation tests vs. other types of macroadenoma pathologies,” Kevin Pantalone, DO, ECNU, FACE, staff endocrinologist and director of clinical research in the department of endocrinology at Cleveland Clinic, told Endocrine Today.

Pantalone and colleagues performed a retrospective chart review of 148 patients with pituitary macroadenoma who underwent preoperative ACTH stimulation tests, with the goal of determining whether the test can aid in the identification of ACTH-staining pathology.

Overall, 9.5% of patients showed diffuse staining, 50.6% showed other-staining (diffuse staining for anterior pituitary hormones other than ACTH) and 39.9% showed no staining (no staining for any anterior pituitary hormones).

The researchers calculated delta total cortisol at 30 and 60 minutes from baseline and reviewed preoperative ACTH stimulation tests. Additionally, Pantalone and colleagues compared the basal and maximal delta cortisol between the ACTH-staining pituitary macroadenoma and the non-ACTH staining (n = 134), other staining (n = 75) and non-staining (n = 59) tumors.

According to data reported at the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress, the ACTH-staining group had higher mean basal cortisol levels compared with the non-ACTH-staining (P = .012), other staining (P = .018) and the non-staining (P = .012) tumors. The researchers found no significant differences in maximal delta cortisol between the groups.

“While we found basal cortisol levels were higher in patients with ACTH-staining pituitary microadenoma vs. non-ACTH-staining macroadenoma, the large variability in cortisol values did not allow for clinical utility,” Pantalone told Endocrine Today.

“Unfortunately, in the end, our study was limited by the number of cases with ACTH-staining pathology. Thus, we were unable to determine if the ACTH stimulation test could reliably assist clinicians in potentially identifying ACTH-staining pathology in the preoperative setting,” he said. “A multicenter study, affording a large number of ACTH-staining tumors, is needed. This may allow for us to determine if the ACTH-stimulation test can really be clinically useful in preoperatively identifying ACTH-staining pathology.” – by Amber Cox

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