Testosterone Therapy for Prostate Cancer
As men grow older, prostate cancer becomes relatively common. The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately one in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetimes. That translates to more than 160,000 new cases of prostate cancer and more than 26,000 deaths from prostate cancer each year. Testosterone suppression treatment is one of the therapies used for prostate cancer. However, new research indicates testosterone may actually be used to treat prostate cancer.
The Relationship Between Testosterone and Prostate Cancer
Testosterone has long been thought to be one of the drivers in prostate cancer. The primary male sex hormone, or androgen, testosterone is what promotes the development of male sexual characteristics and affects libido. Previously, doctors have treated prostate cancer by suppressing testosterone, as the hormone was thought to spur the development of cancer cells and make prostate cancer worse. As for low testosterone and prostate cancer risk, research has shown that men with low testosterone levels do have a higher risk of death from any cause – especially heart disease – but low testosterone does not have any effect on prostate cancer.
Testosterone Therapy and Prostate Cancer Risk
Given that testosterone has long been though to increase the risk of prostate cancer, one might think that supplemental testosterone increases the risk of prostate cancer. However, research has shown that testosterone therapy does not increase risk. The research has been on medical testosterone therapy via oral medication, gel patch or injections. In fact, medical testosterone therapy actually decreased the risk of aggressive prostate cancer by as much as 50 percent in one study from NYU Langone Medical Center. Clearly the connection between testosterone and prostate cancer is complex.
A new study from Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center showed that taking testosterone at the right time could suppress some aggressive prostate cancers and help reverse resistance to other drugs used to treat the disease. Previous research has shown that if men take testosterone in cases of active cancer before they have received testosterone-blocking therapy, it can make the disease worse.
In the new study, researchers administered three 28-day cycles of testosterone by injection to men who had received testosterone suppression therapy. Their theory was that is prostate cells were flooded with testosterone at that point, the cancer cells might die from hormone shock. The men also received chemotherapy treatments with a medication called etoposide. Half of the men in the study had a decrease in PSA levels (a measure of cancer severity), five experienced tumor shrinkage and one man’s cancer completely disappeared.
The results of this study raise some interesting questions. Can testosterone cure prostate cancer? Since the study was small – only 16 men – and the first of its kind, there is no way to answer this question yet. While one man’s tumor did disappear, there could be other reasons for that change. Does testosterone help prostate cancer? Based on this study, the indications are that might be true for some men.
Again, the study was small, and the indications are that the timing of testosterone therapy is critical. For doctors and patients, the next question may be the issue of how to handle prostate cancer and testosterone replacement therapy. Testosterone naturally begins to diminish around the age of 40. This can have a number of significant effects, especially if testosterone levels drop too low. These include decreased muscle mass and muscle strength, osteoporosis (bone thinning) and decreased libido. Medical testosterone therapy can make a considerable difference in quality of life for these patients.
Summarizing the Issues:
- Hormone replacement therapy can help people feel better and be healthier, especially if their hormone levels have dropped early in life as a result of early aging, cancer therapy or surgery.
- Low testosterone does not increase cancer risks but does increase heart disease risks and negatively impacts quality of life for many men.
- Prostate cancer should be appropriately treated once it has been diagnosed.
- Treatment depends on a variety for factors including the patient’s age, the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed and other medical conditions that may affect the prognosis.
- Carefully timed testosterone therapy may make a difference in treating prostate cancer; at this point it is too early to tell.
If you suspect you have or have already been diagnosed with low hormone levels, please contact Wellness MGT. We provide hormone replacement therapy for men and women in the Fort Lauderdale area. Wellness MGT doctors can help determine whether testosterone therapy is right for you.