Pros and cons of testosterone therapy

June 17, 2008

For some years now, testosterone therapy has been used successfully in many countries to treat men with abnormally low testosterone levels, a condition called male hypogonadism. More recently, healthy, ageing men have taken the hormone to boost waning testosterone levels. But not all scientists are excited about this.

In men with testosterone deficiency, testosterone therapy may restore sexual function and muscle strength, prevent bone loss and protect against heart disease (atherosclerosis). Some men taking testosterone therapy also report an increase in energy, sex drive and well-being.

Though potentially beneficial for some men, testosterone therapy isn't risk-free. High doses of testosterone may result in sleep apnoea, infertility and excess blood production, which could increase the risk of stroke.

Testosterone naturally stimulates the growth of the prostate, and experts warn that long-term testosterone treatment could cause prostate gland enlargement. There's also the fear that testosterone therapy may fuel the growth of prostate cancer if it is already present. This is especially worrying as prostate cancer is common in older men, and some may have prostate cancer that is as yet undiagnosed.

While many "anti ageing" proponents insist that testosterone therapy is the answer to staying young, men – especially those with a family history of prostate or breast cancer – should discuss the potential benefits and risks of testosterone therapy thoroughly with their doctors before embarking on treatment. – © Mens Clinic International

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