More and more men are using hormone treatments to up their low testosterone levels and enjoy more energy and a stronger libido as they enter midlife; however, the treatment may give them more than they bargained for. A new study of more than 8,700 older men has found that men who use a testosterone supplement were 30 percent more likely to have a stroke, heart attack or die.
“Our findings raise some uncertainty regarding the potential safety of testosterone use in men,” authors of the study concluded. “It is important to inform patients that long-term risks are unknown and there is a possibility that testosterone therapy might be harmful.”
Nearly 3 percent of all men in the United States older than age 40 take a prescription testosterone treatment to help combat symptoms of “low T” such as diminished sex drive, low energy and weight gain. Fueled by targeted marketing campaigns in recent years, prescriptions for these male hormone therapies increased fivefold between 2000 and 2011, generating sales of more than $1.6 billion annually.
Testosterone treatments include the widely used Testim and Androgel, both gels that are applied to the skin to help boost levels of the male hormone. The gels are available only by prescription and doctors are advised only to prescribe them to patients who have had their testosterone levels checked.
Testim and Androgel already carry a warning to users to wash their hands thoroughly after applying the gel, and to cover the area of the body where the gel was applied because unintended exposure to children and even pets has resulted in adverse reactions. For example, children who have been accidentally exposed to the gel have shown signs of premature puberty that could have long-term effects.
Until now, little was known about the long-term effects hormone treatment could have on men. The new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that 14 percent of men who started testosterone therapy after undergoing angiography were mostly younger and slightly healthier than the 86 percent who did not take the hormones. However, after an average of three years, men who used testosterone supplements were nearly 30 percent more likely than those who did not take the hormones to have a stroke, heart attack, or die from any cause.
One area of concern was that men who started the study with clear, unobstructed coronary arteries were just as likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die as men who entered the study with established coronary artery disease.
Source: LA Times