Can testosterone therapy lead to prostate cancer?

Dr. Jesse N. Mills, MD

There is a lot of controversy about the role of testosterone therapy and prostate cancer. Testosterone is the male sex hormone. It can influence the growth of the prostate. To a certain extent, prostate cancer cells also need testosterone to get bigger and spread. Doctors have known for years that if a man's testosterone level drops to zero and he has prostate cancer, he will live longer. His prostate cancer growth will be really slowed down.

It’s important to know your numbers. You need to know your prostate cancer risk before you start or continue testosterone therapy. There is great literature to show that men with a history of treated prostate cancer and low testosterone benefit from testosterone therapy. They have better sexual health, better muscle mass and lower obesity rates. These things are important for cardiovascular health. So, we should not look at a man with a history of treated prostate cancer any differently than a man that doesn't have prostate cancer in terms of his testosterone replacement therapy or requirements.

The long term effects of testosterone therapy on prostate cancer are unknown, but it appears as though short-term therapy has no adverse effects on prostate tissue. Testosterone partly contributes to prostate cancer, and its contribution is best seen in the current practice of treating those with metastatic or locally invasive prostate cancer with testosterone lowering drugs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.