For years men have expressed concern that using testosterone treatment (testosterone replacement therapy) would boost their risk of developing prostate cancer.
It should be made clear from the beginning that testosterone therapy is appropriate for only a small percentage of men, including those that are diagnosed with hypogonadism (below normal T levels). Today, thousands of men are being prescribed or are using testosterone therapy only because they are experiencing symptoms of low T. Most symptoms can be addressed effectively and safely by adopting lifestyle changes thus avoiding the potential pitfalls of using testosterone therapy.
Does testosterone therapy reduce aggressive prostate cancer risk?
A recent study took 656 men with hypogonadism and looked for the incidence of prostate cancer among them. Some of the men (360) had chosen to receive testosterone therapy while the rest (296) declined the treatment and acted as the control group. The results showed that 12 men in the control group developed prostate cancer while only seven in the group receiving the therapy developed the cancer.
All the men diagnosed with prostate cancer underwent a prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland). The pathology of the removed glands found:
- Cancer found in the men who had received testosterone therapy was determined not likely to spread and the lymph nodes of each man were free of disease.
- Cancer found in the men who did not receive testosterone therapy: three were the same as the first group – small risk of spreading; one had an intermediate risk of cancer spreading; and four had very aggressive cancer cells. Seven of the men had cancer in their lymph nodes.
The conclusion is that men receiving the testosterone therapy not only developed less cancer, but the cancer was much less aggressive.
What are the side effects of testosterone therapy?
Men often consider testosterone therapy after seeing ads that make promises of boosting vitality in and out of the bedroom. Any man experiencing the symptoms of low-T would be much healthier by focusing on more natural ways to raise their testosterone.
The use of testosterone therapy cannot be taken lightly because the treatment has some serious side effects including:
Addiction. Hormones alter the chemistry of the brain. Stopping treatment results in withdrawal symptoms that include cravings for more testosterone, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, restlessness, reduced libido and depression.
Heart Attack or Stroke. A disease called polycythemia can develop in men on testosterone therapy. This disease increases the volume of red blood cells which thickens the blood. The heart works harder to move this thicker blood throughout the body, and blood pressure increases. The risk of heart attack and stroke increases.
Natural testosterone. When using testosterone therapy, the body stops producing natural testosterone. If a man has low testosterone for non-medical reasons (an athlete using steroids) he may never naturally produce testosterone again, it depends on many factors, but it will be a long slow process.
Additional side effects. Men on testosterone therapy have also experienced mood swings, hair loss, small testicles, urinary problems, sleep apnea, enlarged breasts, and aggression.
As with any medical treatment, the good should outweigh the bad. While testosterone therapy does not seem to increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer and may even reduce it, the use of this therapy should be reserved for men who medically cannot produce testosterone due to serious medical illness.