Obesity has been associated with alterations in plasma steroid hormone concentrations in men. Older men present an altered steroid hormone profile compared to younger individuals, and an increase in body fatness and changes in adipose tissue (AT) distribution are noted with advancing age. Thus, there is a need to examine the relative importance of increased body fatness and changes in AT distribution with advancing age to plasma steroid hormone and sex hormone-binding globulin levels in men. We, therefore, investigated the relationships among age, body fatness, AT distribution, and the plasma steroid hormone profile in a group of 217 Caucasian men (mean age ± SD, 36.2 ± 14.9 yr) who covered a wide age range (17- 64 yr). Compared to young adult men, older men were characterized by increased adiposity (P < 0.0001) expressed either as body mass index or total body fat mass assessed by underwater weighing. Differences in AT distribution were also noted with a preferential accumulation of abdominal fat as indicated by a larger waist girth (P < 0.0001) and higher visceral AT accumulation (P < 0.0001), measured by computed tomography, in older subjects. Age was associated with decreases (P < 0.0001) in C19 adrenal steroid levels, namely reduced dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), DHEA fatty acid ester, DHEA sulfate, as well as androstenedione levels. Androgens, i.e. dihydrotestosterone and testosterone, were also affected by age, with lower levels of both steroids being found in older individuals (P < 0.0005). When statistical adjustment for body fatness and AT distribution was performed, differences in C19 adrenal steroids between the age groups remained significant, whereas differences in androgens and sex hormone-binding globulin concentrations were no longer significant. The present study suggests that age-related differences in plasma steroid hormone levels, especially androgens, are partly mediated by concomitant variation in adiposity in men.