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The adrenal cortex releases a large number of steroids into the circulation. Some have minimal biologic activity and function pri-marily as precursors, and there are some for which no function has been established. The hormonal steroids may be classified as those having important effects on intermediary metabolism and immune function (glucocorticoids), those having principally salt-retaining activity (mineralocorticoids), and those having androgenic or estrogenic activity . In humans, the major gluco-corticoid is cortisol and the most important mineralocorticoid is aldosterone. Quantitatively, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in its sulfated form (DHEAS) is the major adrenal androgen. However, DHEA and two other adrenal androgens, androstenediol and androstenedione, are weak androgens or (by conversion) estro-gens. Adrenal androgens constitute the major endogenous precur-sors of estrogen in women after menopause and in younger patients in whom ovarian function is deficient or absent.
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