January 25, 2016
Does testosterone therapy raise your risk of getting prostate cancer or having a heart attack? For definitive answers, large-scale, long-term controlled studies are needed, says Arthur L. Burnett, M.D., the Patrick C. Walsh Distinguished Professor of Urology. However, in the meantime, results of a meta-analysis study led by Burnett suggest that, for prostate cancer at least, the risk is not changed by taking extra testosterone.
Testosterone therapy — boosting low testosterone with supplemental medication — is often prescribed for men with low blood levels of testosterone, for symptoms including reduced libido and sexual activity, fewer spontaneous erections, decreased energy and depressed mood. "But controversies surround the role of testosterone therapy, particularly with respect to prostate cancer and cardiovascular health risks, and these concerns have heightened recently," says Burnett.
In an effort to address the prostate cancer side of these worries, Burnett collaborated with Peter Boyle and colleagues of the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France. They pored over data from about 20,000 men who participated in 24 population-based studies that evaluated the association between blood testosterone levels and the risk of prostate cancer. "We found that the risk of prostate cancer was neither increased or decreased among men with high levels of testosterone compared to lower levels," says Burnett. "Also, testosterone therapy was not found to increase prostate specific antigen (PSA) levels, or to promote the occurrence of prostate cancer." The meta-analysis was presented as a prize abstract selection at the Press Program of the American Urological Association 2015 Annual Meeting. Burnett hopes that these findings will be helpful to clinicians and patients who are worried that boosting low testosterone will cause prostate cancer to develop.