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How to Take Testosterone Without Fear of Prostate Cancer

Is it safe for men to take testosterone? Swedish research shows that it does not increase the chance of a prostate cancer diagnosis.

Men shouldn’t be afraid to take testosterone if they need it, according to a new study.

Are There Risks in Taking Testosterone?

Experts have worried for years that testosterone therapy might increase the risk for prostate cancer, but an analysis of 250,000 medical records from Sweden shows that men who had been prescribed testosterone for more than a year were no more likely than others to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. In this group of Swedish men, those who had taken testosterone actually appeared to have a 50 percent lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

Treating “Low T:”

The number of men who take testosterone to treat “low T” has increased dramatically, tripling since 2001 in the US. The FDA has cautioned physicians that many of these prescriptions are without merit.

But the lead author of the new study states that physicians should not withhold testosterone therapy for men who have testosterone levels below normal. Recent research suggests that the hormone can improve both mood and sexual performance without increasing the risk for cardiovascular complications. The latest study suggests that prostate cancer may not be a consequence of long-term testosterone use either.

American Urological Association Meeting, May 9, 2016

The Trouble with Prostate Cancer:

In addition to worries that testosterone might fuel prostate cancer, there have been concerns that prostate cancer is overdiagnosed. You can read what we have written about overdiagnosis.

The trouble is that it is difficult if not impossible to detect the difference between a prostate cancer that is not likely to cause damage and one that is moving aggressively out of the prostate and into other organs. Since aggressive prostate cancer is treated by blocking testosterone and its metabolite dihydrotestosterone, it seemed to make sense that men at risk for this very common cancer might not want to take testosterone. This Swedish research should lay that concern to rest for men who have not been diagnosed with the disease. Those who already have prostate cancer should discuss the use of this hormone with their oncologists.

For more information on diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer, you may wish to listen to our one-hour interview with three experts on the topic.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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