Study Links Testosterone Therapy and Prostate Cancer in RatsOctober 20, 2014 — Endocrinology has published a study linking the use of testosterone therapy with an increased risk of prostate cancer in rats.

The long-term risk of prostate cancer in men on testosterone is unknown, but a growing number of studies have raised concern about side effects like heart attack and stroke. The researchers warned that this prostate cancer study has “potential significant public health implications for the use of testosterone therapy in men.”

The study was authored by Maarten Bosland, PhD, professor of pathology at the University of Illinois. He tested the carcinogenic effects of testosterone therapy by exposing one group to a carcinogen. Another group of rats were given the carcinogen plus testosterone. The third group of rats were given testosterone in a slow-release implant, but no carcinogen.

Rats that were only given a carcinogen did not develop prostate cancer. However, 10-18% of rats who were only given testosterone did develop prostate cancer. Of the rats that were given a carcinogen plus testosterone, 50-71% developed prostate cancer — even at very low doses of testosterone — with higher doses associated with a higher risk.

Researchers concluded that “testosterone was shown to be a weak complete carcinogen and a strong tumor promoter for the rats in this prostate study.”

Evidence linking testosterone and prostate cancer is eerily similar to the use of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) in menopausal and post-menopausal women. Estrogen was once widely viewed as a good way to prevent heart disease and age-related symptoms of menopause, until the Women’s Health Initiative published a study linking estrogen therapy with breast cancer and other severe side effects.

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