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Testosterone and the aging male: to treat or not to treat?

Author(s): Bain J

Affiliation(s): Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. j.bain@utoronto.ca

Publication date & source: 2010-05, Maturitas., 66(1):16-22. Epub 2010 Feb 13.

Publication type: Review

It is well-established that total testosterone (TT) in men decreases with age and that bioavailable testosterone (bio-T) falls to an even greater extent. The clinical relevance of declining androgens in the aging male and use of testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in this situation is controversial. Most studies have been short term and there are no large randomized placebo-controlled trials. Testosterone has many physiological actions in: muscles, bones, hematopoietic system, brain, reproductive and sexual organs, adipose tissue. Within these areas it stimulates: muscle growth and maintenance, bone development while inhibiting bone resorption, the production of red blood cells to increase hemoglobin, libido, enhanced mood and cognition, erectile function and lipolysis. Anabolic deficits in aging men can induce: frailty, sarcopenia, poor muscle quality, muscle weakness, hypertrophy of adipose tissue and impaired neurotransmission. The aging male with reduced testosterone availability may present with a wide variety of symptoms which in addition to frailty and weakness include: fatigue, decreased energy, decreased motivation, cognitive impairment, decreased self-confidence, depression, irritability, osteoporotic pain and the lethargy of anemia. In addition, testosterone deficiency is also associated with type-2 diabetes, the metabolic syndrome, coronary artery disease, stroke and transient ischemic attacks, and cardiovascular disease in general. Furthermore, there are early studies to suggest that TRT in men with low testosterone levels may improve metabolic status by: lowering blood sugar and HbA1C in men with type-2 diabetes, reducing abdominal girth, ameliorating features of the metabolic syndrome, all of which may be protective of the cardiovascular system. The major safety issue is prostate cancer but there is no evidence that supports the idea that testosterone causes the development of a de novo cancer. So on balance in a man with symptoms of hygonadism and low or lowish levels of testosterone with no evidence of prostate cancer such as a normal PSA a therapeutic (4-6 months) trial of TRT is justified. Treatment and monitoring of this duration will determine whether the patient is responsive. Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

Page last updated: 2010-10-05

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