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Testosterone Side Effects May Include Enlarged Prostate, Study Finds

androgelTestosterone side effects, such as those reported with topical testosterone products like AndroGel, have raised the concern of many healthcare providers and men in recent months. Now, a new study indicates elevated testosterone levels could increase the risk for another complication. The study found a link between high testosterone levels and an increased incidence of prostate enlargement.

UC Santa Barbara study findings

The study, performed by anthropologists at University of California Santa Barbara, looked specifically at an indigenous population that lives an isolated existence in Bolivia, known as the Tsimane. Researchers looked at the incidence of benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) among a group of 350 males in this tribe. The scientists discovered that incidences of BPH among the test group were nearly non-existent. The males in the study also had consistently low testosterone levels throughout their lives.

Researchers stated in their findings that the age-adjusted prostate size of the men in the study were 62 percent smaller than the prostate sizes of men in the U.S. The testosterone levels in the Tsimane males was also on average about 30 percent lower than levels found in U.S. men. The few number of Tsimane males that had slightly higher testosterone levels had correspondingly larger prostates as well.

Additional research supports current evidence

Additional research performed previously on eunuchs and men without testes has also shown that testosterone and androgens are linked to prostate size. In addition, researchers noted that some treatments for prostate cancer also involve lowering testosterone levels as a part of the treatment protocol. Researchers also cited previous studies that indicate higher testosterone levels may increase the risk for prostate cancer as well.

As testosterone therapy has grown in popularity in recent years, so have concerns over the potential risks associated with artificially increasing testosterone levels in middle-aged men. While “low-T” has become a catch phrase sending many men to doctors’ offices in search of a fix for their low energy levels and libido, questions have arisen about whether the risks associated with testosterone outweigh any possible benefits of the therapy.

FDA issues new warning

In recent weeks, the FDA issued a warning about testosterone therapy, saying the drugs could increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and death in some men. The warning follows on the heels of a discovery by the agency that testosterone therapy is increasingly prescribed to men who do not have a diagnosed medical condition known as hypogonadism. Instead, the drug is given to men suffering from common symptoms of aging, such as decreased libido, fatigue and mental fogginess.

A study published in the November 2013 issue of Journal of American Medical Association found that men taking testosterone replacement therapy had a nearly 30-percent increased risk for heart attack or stroke. The FDA is encouraging physicians to limit prescriptions of these drugs to men that have been diagnosed with hypogonadism. The agency is also encouraging doctors to share the risks involving testosterone with their patients and the companies that manufacture the products to include warnings about potential side effects and risks.

In the meantime, men that have been injured by testosterone side effects after taking AndroGel have begun filing lawsuits against AndroGel manufacturer AbbieVie and its parent company Abbott Laboratories. Some of those cases have now been coordinated into multidistrict litigation in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, for the purpose of streamlining early trial proceedings for a growing number of similar complaints. Plaintiffs in the MDL have alleged AndroGel led to heart problems, heart attack, stroke and death.