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Study of Treatments for Low Testosterone Urgently Needed, Doctor Says

Apr 29, 2014

Many older men are receiving prescriptions for testosterone, though their doctors don’t have enough information to know if the treatment can help or hurt them, a doctor warns in a letter to The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal.

Testosterone could be placing men's health at risk, said Dr. Stephanie Page, an endocrinologist at the University of Washington, the New Jersey newspaper the Star-Ledger ( reports. Some smaller studies have shown that testosterone treatment in older men is associated with increased cardiovascular risk. Page says a larger and longer study is needed, but it will take at least a decade to complete such research. Deciding about testosterone treatment on the basis of the smaller studies "would do men's health a disservice," Page wrote.

Earlier this year, writing in JAMA Internal Medicine, Drs. Lisa M. Schwartz and Steven Woloshin of Dartmouth Medical School said that the low-T “disease awareness campaign” ignores evidence that testosterone therapy may increase men’s risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots, and prostate cancer, according to the Chicago Tribune. Men are exposing themselves to the “harms of treatment unlikely to fix problems that may be wholly unrelated to testosterone levels,” Schwarz and Woloshin warned. Testosterone replacement therapy has inconsistent or no benefits for weight loss, depression, or lower extremity strength and modest benefits in lean body mass and body fat, libido and sexual satisfaction, the Tribune reported.

In an article on testosterone replacement therapy, Consumer Reports magazine’s medical experts warned about the risks testosterone medications pose to men using them and to members of their households. Men risk breast enlargement, reduced fertility, heart attacks, and, possibly, faster-growing prostate cancer, according to Consumer Reports. Gel forms of testosterone, applied to the skin, can be transferred to others, exposing partners and children to serious unwanted side effects.

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