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Panel turns critical eye on testosterone

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9:45am, December 8, 2003
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Existing scientific evidence does not justify claims that testosterone treatments can relieve or prevent certain age-related problems in men, a panel of specialists has concluded. On Nov. 12, the panel, formed by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in Washington, D.C., called for more-rigorous study of the therapy's putative health benefits and risks.

A rapidly growing legion of men is using testosterone supplements to combat problems such as frail bones, depression, and loss of muscle, mental focus, and libido. But research has not forcefully demonstrated that the treatment is effective. Moreover, the panel notes, the long-term safety of testosterone therapy is even less well understood (SN: 5/10/03, p. 296: Unproven Elixir).

After reviewing available data, the IOM committee concluded that researchers should first attempt to establish more carefully whether testosterone is an effective treatment. If it is, the committee said, then further studies could determine whether it also carries risks such as exacerbating prostate cancer and clogging blood vessels.

For now, men and their doctors shouldn't consider testosterone preventive medicine against age-related symptoms, says the panel's chair, Dan Blazer of Duke University in Durham, N.C.

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