The fact is, as men grow older, their testosterone production drops. It starts in their 40’s, and increases as they age. Twenty-five percent of men in their 70’s will have the condition of low testosterone, also called hypogonadism. Left untreated low testosterone can interfere with a man’s quality of life. But treatments are available.
What is Testosterone?
First, let’s look at what testosterone is: it’s the male sex hormone, also known as androgen. Testosterone is needed by men for sperm production, facial and body hair, red blood cell production as well as to build muscle and bone mass. Most importantly to a lot of men, it is also responsible for the sex drive.
Treatment for Low T
When you display symptoms of low testosterone levels, or Low T, your physician will usually order blood tests to determine your actual level. If you do have low testosterone, one of the treatments often prescribed is testosterone replacement therapy, or TRT.
But it wasn’t always this way. For years, many doctors believed that testosterone therapy increased a patient’s risk of prostate cancer. This was due to a study done back in the early 1940’s, when two researchers found that when a man’s
testosterone production dropped, their prostate cancer stopped growing. In addition, when they gave testosterone to men with prostate cancer, their cancer grew.
On top of that, one of the treatments for prostate cancer is hormone therapy, which slows cancer growth in men by lowering their testosterone levels. But recently researchers found that there was actually a higher risk of prostate cancer among men who had low testosterone levels.
One of the largest studies to date was done at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle. This study found that when testosterone therapy was done for a moderate duration there was no increased risk of prostate cancer in men. Researchers looked at the records of 147,593 men and looked for the development of aggressive prostate cancer.
The findings showed that men who received testosterone therapy had aggressive prostate cancer at the identical rate as untreated men. This conclusively showed that testosterone therapy did not increase a patient’s risk of prostate cancer. All patients received their therapy through intramuscular injections, which is the most biologically available therapy. Previous studies focused on testosterone that was delivered in creams or patches, which means that patients never achieved a biologically therapeutic level of testosterone, clouding those studies’ results.
In addition, other studies have supported this research by finding no relationship between a man’s testosterone level and his risk of developing prostate cancer. And a review in the journal Medicine found that testosterone replacement therapy does not increase PSA levels – which is often elevated in men who have prostate cancer.
Reducing Prostate Cancer Risks
There are many risks associated with prostate cancer that go beyond testosterone. They include the age of the patient – most diagnoses are made in men between 65 and 74 years old. Other risks include family history-if one close relative has the disease; you’re probably twice as likely to develop prostate cancer. African-American men are also more likely to get prostate cancer than white or Hispanic men. Finally, diet plays a role as well – a high-fat, high-carb diet combined with highly processed foods may increase the risk of prostate cancer.
While more research is needed, it’s safe to say that TRT is safe when prescribed under the direction of a physician who is familiar with the therapy and monitors the patient during treatment.
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