Depending upon a man's age, there are several ranges of estrogen levels that are considered to be normal. Even though it's sometimes called the "female" sex hormone, men do need it — they just need the right balance of it and male sex hormones. Levels of high estrogen lead to physical abnormalities and accelerated aging.
For a prepubescent male, estrogen levels are expected to be between 10 and 37 picograms per milliliter (pg/ml). During puberty, normal levels fall between 23 and 84 pg/ml. Levels for an adult male should be between 25 and 50 pg/ml.
Estradiol is the form of estrogen that is most commonly measured to determine a hormonal imbalance in men. It is a female sex hormone that contributes to the development of female and male reproductive characteristics in both sexes. When a male's level of estrogen becomes too high, he may begin to exhibit female characteristics, such as an increase in breast size and weight gain in the lower abdomen and hip areas.
Normal estrogen levels in men help prevent cardiovascular disease and heart attacks, maintain proper reproductive function and weight levels, and contribute to the health of the thyroid gland. While estrogen tends to increase with age, there are a few problems that lead to abnormal levels. These include poor liver function, increased alcohol intake, obesity, low levels of zinc in the blood stream, and certain prescription medications.
An increase in the amount of fat cells in the body can lead to elevated levels of aromatase. This enzyme transforms the male hormone testosterone into estradiol, throwing off the balance between the two sex hormones. A low level of zinc increases the amount of aromatase, which in turn elevates estrogen levels. In addition, the male testes rely on zinc to make testosterone.
Estrogen levels in men can be disturbed by a decline in the proper functioning of the liver, which may be attributed to age or an abuse of alcohol. One of the liver's functions is to help rid the body of excess hormones. Certain medications used to treat high blood pressure also tend to disrupt normal estrogen levels in men. Water pills, for example, might lead to a zinc deficiency if adequate supplements are not taken.
Sex hormone levels are measured by a blood test. For conditions such as male pattern baldness, they may not be accurate as the hormone levels produced by skin and hair follicles may differ from blood hormone levels. High androgens, which are produced by elevated levels of the male sex hormone testosterone, are usually the culprit. If estrogen levels fall too low, it causes an imbalance in the amount of free standing testosterone in the body.