Low Testosterone and Prostate Cancer

June 26, 2009 by  
Filed under Prostate Cancer

You must have heard of ketoconazole, the prescription drug ordinarily used to treat fungal infections, which works by weakening fungal cell walls, thereby either killing the fungus or stopping its growth. Well if you didn’t know it before, now you do: ketoconazole is also great for treating prostate cancer because it suppresses the production of testosterone in the male reproductive system. Testosterone is a critical masculine hormone but one that has also been implicated, alongside dihydrotestostarone (DHT) and dihydroepiandrosterone, as a critical hormone necessary for prostate cancer cell survival.

Thing is, hormone treatments for various forms of cancer have been in practice already for the greater part of a century, especially in cancer of the reproductive systems of both men and women (breast, ovarian, and prostate). This is because it has been irrevocably determined that these cancers grow a lot faster when the hormones are present, and their growth is stopped or even reversed when the hormone is removed. American scientist Charles Huggins won the 1946 Nobel Prize for finding out precisely that prostate cancer lived hugely off of testosterone, which is produced in the male testicles with a lot of support by the adrenal glands.

Removing the male testicles by surgical means has therefore been one the more definitive ways of dealing with prostate cancer because it stops the production of the guilty hormone and causes the carcinoma to regress. Nonetheless, even such drastic hormonal therapy does not actually cure the disease; it only rids it of the fuel it needs to grow. It has been found in fact that certain levels of testosterone are still produced in the body after the removal of the testicles, which still serve to energize the cancer in a small way; and also that without the hormone, cancerous cells eventually mutate and resume their progression again after about two years of treatment.

This kind of low testosterone prostate cancer certainly points an accusing finger at the merit of trying to deal hormone replacement therapy to aid the other side effects of a low testosterone level in the body. According to research findings, men with lower testosterone levels have an increased risk of dying from any cause, most particularly cardiovascular disease; and even after further testing, the link between low testosterone and earlier death remained.

Now, low testosterone may be bad, but it is not clear that testosterone replacement therapy can correct the problem. Besides, who would want more testosterone knowing that they are at risk of contracting prostate cancer? Certainly a patient who is already in therapy for the carcinoma would not be interested in anything of that nature. Only clinical trials can prove if testosterone supplementation lowers the risk of death linked to low testosterone levels; but researchers aren’t in a hurry because they worry that the testo treatment may increase men’s risk of prostate cancer.


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