Endocrinologists Weigh in on Steve Jobs' Hormonal Imbalance

Doctors call Jobs' condition 'vague;' likely related to his pancreas.

By + More

While Clusterstock asserts that analysts were justified in questioning Apple's Macworld announcement ("this doesn't excuse Apple's failure to be forthright about this critical issue"), the WSJ's Health Blog went as far as to ask endocrinologists what they thought about Steve Jobs' hormonal imbalance. Excerpts:

Michael D. Jensen, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, suggested that Jobs’s weight loss is probably related to his pancreas.

The pancreas plays a key role in digestion and metabolism. Among other things, the gland located behind the stomach produces insulin and other hormones as well as enzymes the body uses to break down food as it passes through the gut.

In 2004, surgeons removed something called an islet cell neuroendocrine tumor—a rare form of cancer that’s not deadly if caught early — from Jobs’s pancreas. It’s possible that the tumor has recurred, perhaps on the pancreas or the liver, and is upsetting hormonal signals involved in digestion. This might be treated by surgically removing the tumor, or by taking pills that restore the hormonal balance.

That scenario would explain the “hormonal imbalance” Jobs mentioned in his statement, as well as his description of the problem as a “nutritional problem.”

A simpler possibility would be that the tumor removal left Jobs with a pancreas that’s just not big enough to produce enough pancreatic enzymes. In that case, taking the enzymes in pills would be an effective treatment. But if Jobs’s problem were simply that he’s not getting enough enzymes because his pancreas is too small, it wouldn’t typically be referred to as a “hormone imbalance.”

Of course, there are all sorts of other possibilities that have nothing to do with the pancreas. And the vagueness of Jobs’ statement leaves many details unclear. “To an endocrinologist, the most vague statement you can ever make is the term ‘hormone imbalance,’ ” Clay Semenkovich, chief of endocrinology at Washington University in Saint Louis, told us.