Validation of an adapted procedure to collect hair for cortisol determination in adolescents
Adaption of the collection protocol for hair cortisol determination
Article [Accepted Manuscript]
Is part ofPsychoneuroendocrinology ; vol. 70, pp. 58-62.
Introduction In the last decades, cortisol has been extensively studied in association to early exposure to adversity as well as in the etiology of a number of physical and mental problems. While saliva and blood samples allow the measurement of acute changes in cortisol secretion, hair samples are thought to provide a valid retrospective measure of chronic cortisol secretion over an extended period of time. Nevertheless, the existing protocol for hair collection involves considerable financial and logistical challenges when performed in large epidemiological studies. Objective This study aimed to validate an adapted collection protocol asking participants to sample their hair at home and to send it back to our laboratory by regular mail. Methods Participants were 34 teenagers between 17 and 18 years of age. They participated in two hair collections: (a) at home, with the help of someone they know, and (b) in our laboratory, with a trained research assistant. Results We noted a strong correlation between cortisol ascertained from hair collected at home and at the laboratory. No mean difference in cortisol levels could be detected between the two protocols. Moreover, we showed that a wide range of hair-related, sociodemographic, lifestyle factors that may be associated with hair cortisol levels did not affect the association between cortisol measures derived from each protocol. Conclusion Our study provides initial support that reliable measures of chronic cortisol secretion could be obtained by asking adolescents to collect a sample of their hair at home and send them to the laboratory by regular mail. This adapted protocol has considerable financial and logistical advantages in large epidemiological studies.