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Boys who are exposed to high levels of oestrogen in the womb may have a higher risk of autism, research suggests.
Scientists tested the amniotic fluid of more than 270 pregnancies. They found four types of oestrogens were higher in the babies who went on to develop autism.
Exposure - Hormones - Brain - Growth - Researchers
Prenatal exposure to these hormones has been linked to altered brain growth, the researchers at Cambridge University said.
The study has been labelled 'a good first step' towards working out what causes autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Academics - Hormone - Levels
However, the academics currently do not know where the elevated hormone levels come from.
However, experts stress we must not get 'carried away' and further research is required before amniotic fluid can be used to screen for the condition.
Author - Professor - Simon - Baron-Cohen - Idea
Lead author Professor Simon Baron-Cohen said: 'This new finding supports the idea that increased prenatal sex steroid hormones are one of the potential causes for the condition.
'Genetics is well established as another, and these hormones likely interact with genetic factors to affect the developing foetal brain.'
Autism - People - UK - Extent - National
Autism affects more than one in 100 people in the UK to some extent, National Autistic Society statistics show.
And in the US, one in 59 children alone had an autism spectrum disorder last year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scientists - Levels - Steroid - Hormones - Group
In 2015, the same scientists measured the levels of four prenatal steroid hormones in a group of pregnant women's amniotic fluid.
Steroid hormones are secreted by the 'steroid glands'. These are made up of the kidneys' adrenal cortex, the testes, ovaries and the placenta during pregnancy.
Hormones - Androgens - Role - Reproduction - Development
Two of these four hormones were androgens, which play a role in reproduction and the development of 'male traits'.
The most common androgen is testosterone, which is higher in males but also gives women their sex drive.
Levels - Androgens - Fluid - Researchers
Elevated levels of androgens in the amniotic fluid led the researchers...
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