Low Testosterone Frequent In Male Cancer Survivors

Industry News – e-Journal of Age Management Medicine – October 2007

Low Testosterone Frequent In Male Cancer Survivors

Anne Harding

(October 11, 2007 – Reuters Health) NEW YORK — Many male cancer survivors have low testosterone levels, and may benefit from supplementation with the hormone, UK researchers report.

Nearly 14% of a group of cancer survivors had “frankly low” levels of testosterone, Dr. Richard J. M. Ross of the University of Sheffield and colleagues found.

“There’s a much higher incidence of very low testosterone levels than was necessarily appreciated in cancer survivors,” Ross told Reuters Health.

While chemotherapy is well-known to be damaging to sperm, the effect of cancer drugs on testosterone production is not as clearly understood, Ross and his colleagues note in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. To investigate, they compared testosterone levels of 176 male cancer survivors ranging in age from 25 to 45 and 213 control individuals with no cancer history.

Ross and his team were careful to measure testosterone at the same time of day for all study participants, given that levels of the hormone spike in the morning and then fall as the day progresses.

Cancer survivors had more body fat than the control men, higher levels of insulin and blood glucose, and worse quality of life. They also reported more fatigue and reduced sexual function. Among cancer survivors, 13.6% had testosterone levels below 10 nanomoles/liter, considered the cutoff point for low testosterone, compared to fewer than 2.5% of the control group. The survivors’ average testosterone levels also were significantly lower than those of the control group.

Ross and his team also found that as testosterone levels declined, cancer survivors’ fat mass increased, as did their insulin levels.

The findings suggest that supplementation with testosterone for male cancer survivors with low levels of the hormone could reduce body fat, and thus potentially heart disease risk, Ross said in an interview. Testosterone might also reduce fatigue and improve quality of life, he added. “We know that young men who have hypogonadism from other cause benefit from testosterone replacement therapy,” he said, pointing out that the hormone is considered to be safe for cancer survivors.

He and his colleagues are now planning a study in which they will investigate the effects of testosterone versus placebo in testosterone-deficient cancer survivors.

SOURCE: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, September 2007.

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