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Sexual Health Center

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Male Sex Hormone Gets Women in the Mood

But Testosterone Safety Questions Remain

More Satisfying Sex continued...

Women who wore the higher dose patch had about two more satisfying sexual experiences over a four-week period than women in the placebo group. Women in the lower-dose group had one more.

At the start of the study, about half of all sexual episodes were rated as satisfying. By week 24, 78% of the episodes in the higher-dose testosterone group were rated as satisfying, compared with 65% in the placebo group.

Lead researcher Susan R. Davis, MD, PhD, tells WebMD that the findings show that testosterone is an effective treatment for low sexual desire in women without adding estrogen treatment to the mix.

This is important because long-term estrogen treatment has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer in older women.

"Unlike men, women tend to continue to have sex even when it is not particularly satisfying for them," she says. "So if they are having sex five times a month on average and they can enjoy it twice as often, that could make a big difference."

4 Breast Cancers Found

Women in the higher-dose testosterone group reported a slight increase in facial hair, but they did not find this troubling enough to stop taking the hormone, Davis says.

Of more concern were four cases of breast cancer diagnosed in the testosterone users during the study. No breast cancers were reported in the placebo group.

Davis says two of the breast cancers appear to have been present, but missed, before the start of the trial. A third cancer occurred in a woman who had taken estrogen hormone therapy for 27 years.

"Considering that most women will only end up using testosterone for a couple of years, it is probably safe," she says.

But Julia R. Heiman, PhD, who directs the Kinsey Institute for Sex, Gender and Reproduction, isn't so sure.

"I think very important questions remain about the safety of this treatment in light of this finding," she tells WebMD.

Heiman says there is a clear need for better ways to address sexual desire issues in women, especially because so many women now take antidepressants and other drugs that can cause sexual problems.

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