Many Older Men – Maybe too Many – Start Testosterone Therapy Without Clear Medical Need

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Published on January 9th, 2014
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Sex and Romance for Senior Citizens

Many Older Men Maybe too Many Start Testosterone Therapy Without Clear Medical Need

Study finds increased testing among men with normal hormone levels and notes worry about potential risks associated with testosterone use

Jan. 9, 2014 - Testosterone use has sharply increased among older men in the past decade and many appear to have normal testosterone levels and do not meet the clinical guidelines for treatment. There is rising concern about the potential risks from unnecessary testosterone use, according to new research to be published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Testosterone is a key male sex hormone involved in maintaining sex drive, sperm production and bone health. Since testosterone levels tend to naturally decline as men age, lower levels of the hormone do not necessarily mean that an individual has hypogonadism, a condition that results from low testosterone.

As the population ages and an increasing number of men struggle with obesity and diabetes, more men may experience low testosterone levels without meeting diagnostic criteria or displaying symptoms of hypogonadism.

"Over the past decade, older and middle-aged men are increasingly being tested for low testosterone levels and being prescribed testosterone medications, particularly in the United States," said one of the study's authors, J. Bradley Layton, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"While direct-to-consumer advertising and the availability of convenient topical gels may be driving more men to seek treatment, our study suggests that many of those who start taking testosterone may not have a clear medical indication to do so."

To study testosterone trends, the retrospective incident user cohort study analyzed commercial and Medicare insurance claims from the United States and general practitioner health-care records from the United Kingdom during the period between 2000 and 2011. The study identified 410,019 American men and 6,858 U.K. men who began taking testosterone during this period. The analysis also found more than 1.1 million U.S. men and 66,000 U.K. men who had their testosterone levels tested during this time.

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Many Older Men – Maybe too Many – Start Testosterone Therapy Without Clear Medical Need

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