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5 June 2006
Short-Term Testosterone Use Pronounced Safe
by George Atkinson

Health authorities estimate that low testosterone affects up to 13 million American men over the age of 45. It is frequently undiagnosed as many of the symptoms are subtle and often overlap with other common medical conditions. Older men with conditions such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension are more likely to have low testosterone compared to other men. The symptoms of low testosterone may include low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depressed mood and fatigue.

Treatment to boost testosterone levels is usually in the form of injections, patches or gels, but concerns have been raised in the past that supplemental testosterone may increase the risk of prostate cancer. Now, however, a new study presented at the American Urological Association annual meeting indicates that short-term testosterone therapy is in fact safe. The results should be of interest to the millions of men with low testosterone, who may benefit from testosterone replacement therapy.

In the clinical trial, investigators examined the effects of testosterone in 41 men, aged between 50 and 75 with hypogonadism (low testosterone) for a 6-month period. Twenty-one men received testosterone intramuscular injections (150 mg/ two weeks) while 20 men received placebo. Prostate biopsies were conducted at the start and at 6-months. The study found that after 6 months, no prostate tissue changes attributable to testosterone therapy were indicated. Despite marked increases in serum testosterone levels, prostate levels of the hormone did not change. Additionally, the researchers said that gene expression was not altered, cell proliferation was not accelerated, and histologic cancers were not increased.

While no evidence of testosterone replacement therapy negatively affecting the prostate was found, the researchers said men should still exercise caution. "Patients should be comforted by these results, but large-scale, long-term trials are still needed," said researcher Leonard Marks, from UCLA. Adding that: "The prostate appears to be buffered against rather wide fluctuations in serum testosterone levels, [but] all hypogonadal men considering testosterone therapy - especially older men - must be monitored closely by their physicians prior to and throughout treatment."

Based on material from the Urological Sciences Research Foundation

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