If you’ve researched the science of testosterone replacement therapy, you’ve probably run across an article or two about the relationship between testosterone and cancer.
It’s certainly advisable to get the facts—staying abreast of potential detrimental health risks is quite important, especially if you have an established medical condition that may become life threatening. If you remain ill informed, how can you fight the challenge ahead?
If you’re reading this blog post, you’re likely concerned about the potential relationship between testosterone and cancer. And reasonably so—cancer is not something to take lightly. So let’s talk about the facts.
Testosterone and cancer have been linked in a variety of ways. The manner in which testosterone may or may not interact with cancer varies greatly. Testosterone is a very complicated hormone that is involved in numerous physiologic processes in your body. Because cancer may evolve in nearly any organ, it’s conceivable that testosterone may in some way have either a beneficial or deleterious effect on cancer development. This is where the debate about testosterone and cancer begins.
Testosterone and Cancer of the Prostate
One of the more debated areas in medicine involves the potential link between testosterone and the development of prostate cancer. For many decades, doctors have followed limited evidence suggesting that either endogenous or exogenous testosterone exposure can directly contribute to the rise of prostate cancer in aging men.
In fact, in 15% of all cases, tumor progression may occur in those with PSA (prostate specific antigen) measurements of less than 4 ng/mL. Interestingly, some recent studies have suggested there may be a rise in the incidence of prostate cancer in those who suffer from low testosterone, but NOT in those with normal physiologic production or in those undergoing testosterone replacement therapy. This is a much different relationship between testosterone and cancer of the prostate than originally thought.
You can read a more detailed explanation of the issue of testosterone and cancer of the prostate here. Unfortunately, until larger studies are completed, it will be an area of continued debate. To date, there is very little evidence linking the development of prostate cancer with testosterone replacement. The Endocrine Society recommends monitoring PSA measurements closely during treatment, and replacement is contraindicated in cases with an established history of untreated cancer. As always, talk to your medical care provider about whether testosterone replacement therapy is right for you.
How Testosterone Can Help Breast Cancer Survivors
It’s not all bad news when it comes to testosterone and cancer! Breast cancer survivors have often found that testosterone replacement therapy may aid with one of the more difficult side effects of the disease—hormone deficiency and the untoward adverse effects.
As women age, the dreaded symptoms of menopause eventually rear their ugly heads. Many women experiencing menopause probably don’t realize testosterone deficiency may be a significant contributing factor to their symptoms. In fact, many women have found that testosterone replacement can help with these symptoms. Alleviation of symptoms such as fatigue and lack of interest in sex is common. You can read more about the beneficial effects of testosterone for women here and here.
Testosterone and Cancer of the Testicles
Synonymous with breast cancer, testicular cancer is a disease that can leave many patients requiring indefinite testosterone replacement. Why is this the case? The testes are the primary source of testosterone synthesis. When they are resected, in the setting of bilateral testicular cancer, an immediate deficient state develops.
However, for those men with unilateral disease (who hence only require removal one of testicle) the outcome is usually much better. They may then forgo testosterone replacement. You can read more about the complex relationship between testosterone and cancer of the testicles here.
Only You And Your Medical Care Provider Can Decide What’s Right For You When It Comes to Testosterone And Cancer
Testosterone replacement therapy can be quite complex, and it therefore requires direct oversight by a trained medical care provider. One must certainly consider the potential risks of testosterone and cancer and discuss testosterone’s role, or lack thereof, in cancer. Many factors must be considered prior to determining if treatment is the right decision for you.
Of utmost importance is to at least initiate a conversation about these important medical topics—if you’re experiencing symptoms that may be directly caused by low testosterone, it might be the time to get tested.
If you’re ready to stop struggling with your symptoms, click here to set up your free consultation. We may be able to determine what’s keeping you from feeling like you should, and we’ll do it together.