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Men's Health

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Menopause Not Just For Women


A Questionable Past

The first successful use of hormone replacement was carried out 150 years ago by a German professor named Berthold who transplanted a rooster's testes into another castrated rooster. This procedure prevented the castrated rooster's comb from withering away. That study was followed by numerous other experiments using testicular transplants and extracts.

Testosterone was only isolated and synthesized 60 years ago. However, the oral form can be toxic to the liver and heart, and that, Carruthers says, has "colored the thinking of two generations of physicians."

Another problem associated with the diagnosis of "male menopause" is that only about 13% of men with symptoms have a low total testosterone level. Carruthers and others, however, say doctors need to evaluate the level of free active testosterone, or FAT, rather than total testosterone levels. FAT is obtained by dividing the total plasma testosterone level by that of the sex hormone binding globulin, or SHBG. This turns out to be low in 74% of the men with menopausal symptoms. SHBG increases with age and "zaps" the free testosterone before it can get into the cells to do its job.

Still, Skeptics Abound

Skeptics of andropause still abound. In an article in American Journal of Psychiatry, UCLA psychiatrist H. Sternbach concluded that "testosterone decline/deficiency is not a state strictly analogous to female menopause and may exhibit considerable overlap with primary and other secondary psychiatric disorders."

British urologists N. Burns-Cox and C. Gingell concluded in another medical journal that "the symptoms of the andropause fatigue can readily be explained by stress, and there is no scientifically valid ... study that shows any benefit for testosterone supplements in this uncommon group of patients."

More Research

Carruthers, however, has been following men who have taken testosterone supplements for up to five years, and he has concluded that the supplements cause no negative effects on their hearts, livers, or prostates.

And Dott and Karpas point out that when it comes to diagnosis, doctors should not just evaluate testosterone levels. "Good medical care dictates that a comprehensive medical and psychological assessment along with a thorough laboratory assessment are necessary," they say.

Possibly this debate will be solved once Bain completes his analysis of data comparing men with "menopausal" symptoms on hormone replacement with men receiving placebos. If so, will men rush out to get hormone replacement therapy? Stay tuned!

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