Cross-sectional studies have not shown raised testosterone levels at the time of diagnosis of prostate cancer, and in fact, low testosterone at the time of diagnosis has been linked with more locally aggressive and malignant tumors (Massengill et al 2003; Imamoto et al 2005; Isom-Batz et al 2005). This may reflect loss of hormone related control of the tumor or the effect of a more aggressive tumor in decreasing testosterone levels. One study found that 14% of hypogonadal men, with normal digital rectal examination and PSA levels, had histological prostate cancer on biopsy. It is possible that low androgen levels masked the usual evidence of prostate cancer in this population (Morgentaler et al 1996). Most longitudinal studies have not shown a correlation between testosterone levels and the future development of prostate cancer (Carter et al 1995; Heikkila et al 1999; Stattin et al 2004) but a recent study did find a positive association (Parsons et al 2005). Interpretation of such data requires care, as the presentation of prostate cancer could be altered or delayed in patients with lower testosterone levels.
Millions of American men use a prescription testosterone gel or injection to restore normal levels of the manly hormone. The ongoing pharmaceutical marketing blitz promises that treating "low T" this way can make men feel more alert, energetic, mentally sharp, and sexually functional. However, legitimate safety concerns linger. For example, some older men on testosterone could face higher cardiac risks.
Mental status changes including excess aggression are a well known phenomenon in the context of anabolic steroid abuse (Perry et al 1990). An increase in self-reported aggressive behaviors have also been reported in one double blind placebo controlled trial of testosterone in young hypogonadal men (Finkelstein et al 1997), but this has not been confirmed in other studies (Skakkebaek et al 1981; O’Connor et al 2002). Aggression should therefore be monitored but in our experience is rarely a significant problem during testosterone replacement producing physiological levels.
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Like other supplements and medication, testosterone therapy comes with risks and possible side effects. This is particularly true if you try to take it for normal aging rather than for treatment of a condition. Also, the Cleveland Clinic points out that the effects that these supplements may have on your heart and prostate can lead to a number of potential issues. Complications include:
Testosterone treatment is unequivocally needed in classical hypogonadism for reasons discussed in subsequent subsections. In classical hypogonadism, testosterone production is usually clearly below the lower limit of normal and patients are highly symptomatic; the various symptoms are easily related to the deficiencies in various bodily systems where testosterone action is important. Symptoms of testosterone deficiency are listed in Table 2. A few prominent causes of classical hypogonadism are listed in Table 3.
Testosterone levels generally peak during adolescence and early adulthood. As you get older, your testosterone level gradually declines — typically about 1 percent a year after age 30 or 40. It is important to determine in older men if a low testosterone level is simply due to the decline of normal aging or if it is due to a disease (hypogonadism).