Study Raises Questions About Testosterone Therapy
But it doesn't prove heart harms from the popular supplements
The researchers tracked the men for an average of 28 months and adjusted the study's statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by high or low numbers of men with heart disease (almost all had signs of it). The investigators found that the men in the study were about 30 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke and to die after going on testosterone therapy, although these conditions weren't extremely common overall. (Nine percent of the men died.)
The study has limitations. It's not clear why men who went on testosterone therapy sought it in the first place. And the study didn't examine the benefits that the treatment could have brought to the men in terms of things like their sex lives, energy levels and overall happiness.
Study co-author Ho pointed out that the researchers tried to account for the possible effect of health conditions such as diabetes. It's conceivable that testosterone supplements could worsen sleep apnea and boost the risk of blood clots, he suggested.
Dr. John Amory, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington Medical Center, said the findings shouldn't worry people because they could easily be misleading. But they do point to the importance of research that will do a better job of identifying any risks from testosterone supplements. "The final verdict will wait," he said.
Amory added that testosterone treatment is definitely a good idea in certain cases, such as in a young man who's lost his testicles to cancer. In other men, especially those who are older and sicker, it's not as clear that the benefits outweigh the risks, he said.
The study appears in the Nov. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.