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Volume 12, Issue 2 (March 2010) 12, 136–151; 10.1038/aja.2010.4

Androgens and male aging: current evidence of safety and efficacy

Louis J. Gooren

Department of Endocrinology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam 1007 MB, the Netherlands

Correspondence: Prof. Louis J. Gooren, louisjgooren@gmail.com

Received 13 January 2010; Revised 24 January 2010; Accepted 27 January 2010; Published online 15 February 2010.


Many signs of aging, such as sexual dysfunction, visceral obesity, impaired bone and muscle strength, bear a close resemblance to features of hypogonadism in younger men. The statistical decline of serum testosterone in aging men is solidly documented. It has been presumed that the above features of aging are related to the concurrent decline of androgens, and that correction of the lower-than-normal circulating levels of testosterone will lead to improvement of symptoms of aging. But in essence, the pivotal question whether the age-related decline of testosterone must be viewed as hypogonadism, in the best case reversed by testosterone treatment, has not been definitively resolved. Studies in elderly men with lower-than-normal testosterone report improvement of features of the metabolic syndrome, bone mineral density, of mood and of sexual functioning. But as yet there is no definitive proof of the beneficial effects of restoring testosterone levels to normal in elderly men on clinical parameters. Few of these studies meet as yet rigorous standards of scientific enquiry: double-blind, placebo-controlled design of the study. The above applies also to the assessment of safety of testosterone administration to elderly men. There is so far no convincing evidence that testosterone is a main factor in the development of prostate cancer in elderly men and guidelines for monitoring the development of prostate disease have been developed. It is of note that there are presently no long-term safety data with regard to the prostate. Polycythemia is another potential complication of testosterone treatment. It is dose dependent and can be managed with dose adjustment.

Keywords: aging; bone mineral density; metabolic syndrome; polycythemia; prostate disease; sexual dysfunction; sleep apnea; testosterone

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