Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer

Low T Levels Linked to Lower Prostate Cancer Risk?

Low testosterone levels have been shown to be linked to a lower risk of prostate cancer (PC). A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford analyzed blood samples from 19,000 men ages 34-76 collected between 1959 and 2004. The findings from this research were recently presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) in Liverpool. In this analysis, which is the largest of its kind conducted to date, researchers found that men with “unusually low” amounts of testosterone in their blood were 20% less likely to develop prostate cancer.

The prostate / testosterone connection

Prostate cancer is the second most frequently diagnosed cancer and the sixth leading cause of cancer death in men worldwide. It generally affects older men, grows slowly and is most often treatable. Prostate cancer can often be “cured” with surgery or radiation if it is treated when localized or at lower stages, however, for many men, there is still a risk of cancer recurrence. The prostate, a gland that is part of the male reproductive system, has testosterone receptors, and thus the growth of cancerous cells in the prostate and beyond is affected by testosterone levels.

Prostate cancer, like breast cancer, is a condition influenced by hormones. It needs testosterone to multiply and spread. Most prostate cancer tumors that spread have overactive testosterone receptors. Hormone therapy, also called androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) or androgen suppression therapy, is used to block or lower the levels of testosterone in the body.1 Decreasing the androgen levels or preventing them from invading prostate cancer cells can cause prostate cancer tumors to shrink or grow less quickly. Hormone therapy alone does not cure prostate cancer.

The UK study

Scientists continue to explore the causes of prostate cancer development, as well as prevention, detection, and treatment of, prostate cancer. The UK study analyzed data from 19,000 men and divided them into ten groupings or cohorts based on the free circulating testosterone levels in their blood and compared their prostate cancer risk. The findings indicated that those with lowest testosterone levels, in the bottom tenth, were less likely to develop the disease. However, those findings do not mean that they would not get prostate cancer. Additional findings suggest that men that did develop prostate cancer were 65% more likely to develop a more aggressive form of the disease. There was no direct correlation with the development of the disease and level of testosterone for the other nine study cohorts.

The study authors suggest that their findings support “the hypothesis that testosterone receptors on prostate cells quickly become saturated. It appears that once that level has been reached, further increases in testosterone do not increase cancer growth.”1 This theory has not been supported through years of prior studies, so this is an important finding to come forward. The saturation model suggests that the stimulating effects of hormones increase up until the point of receptor saturation, but any further increase above that will not cause additional growth in prostate tissue.5

Future research

According to Professor Malcolm Mason, a prostate cancer expert for Cancer Research UK, “These results could be important in helping to devise an approach to reducing men’s risk of developing the disease.” While this research does not offer any definite conclusions about how treatment options might be adapted to incorporate findings of “unusually low” testosterone levels, it does point the way for further studies. Further exploration of the biology of the disease might lead to techniques for earlier identification of risk factors for the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer.1

Low testosterone levels linked to reduced risk of prostate cancer. Press release. The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI). Published November 4, 2017. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/cancer-news/press-release/2017-11-04-low-testosterone-levels-linked-to-reduced-risk-of-prostate-cancer. Accessed November 18, 2017. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-11-testosterone-linked-prostate-cancer.html. Accessed November 18, 2017. Zhou Y., Bolton EC. Androgens and androgen receptor signaling in prostate tumorigenesis. J Mol Endocrinol. 2015;54(1):R15-29. http://jme.endocrinology-journals.org/content/54/1/R15.full. Accessed November 19, 2017. Prostate Cancer. American Cancer Society website. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/prostate-cancer/treating/hormone-therapy.html. Accessed November 20, 2017. 5 Watts, E. NCRI Cancer Conference Abstracts. Published 2017. Poster Session. ://abstracts.ncri.org.uk/abstract/low-circulating-free-testosterone-is-associated-with-reduced-incidence-of-prostate-cancer-a-pooled-analysis-of-individual-participant-data-from-20-prospective-studies/. Accessed November 20, 2017.

Comments

  • Al DiPierno moderator
    2 years ago

    I would like to comment on Testosterone and my PC. After surgery and radiation my PSA continued to rise. I was referred to the Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) to enroll in a Clinical Trial in an effort to delay starting ADT. Two of the trials were very successful and delayed the start of Hormone Therapy.

    Like most treatments for PC, they start to loss there effectiveness and my PSA and Scans started to show disease progression. I started ADT (Lupron) Oct 2012, taking a shot every three month in order to keep my cancer in check. It worked very effectively for a few years but after three years, my PSA started to rise again.

    The side effects of ADT are a challenge but I must say that they can be managed. First off the hot flashes are bad and come at the most inopportune time. I am still working and it never fails that I’ll get a hot flash at a meeting or when I’m with a customer, One time I got one on a flight and the flight attended came over to me in fear I was having a heart attack. I just said “I will be fine in a few minuets” They do pass. I take a drug (Effexor) that does help with the night sweats. Talk to your Dr. about it.

    By far the biggest challenge is the loss of Libido and the inability to have sex. I am very lucky to have a wife that is understanding and we get by with a lot of physical contact (Hugs and Kisses) that she desperately craves.

    I stay positive by working, playing golf, enjoying my grandkids and now, exercising regularly. It is really important to stay active because you can slip into depression very easily.

    Now about Testosterone. Over the past 5 years, since starting ADT, the objective has been to keep my T at low levels. I was on Zitiga for 3 years that did an excellent job but eventually stopped working. I am now enrolled in a Clinical Trial (Transformer Trial) at CINJ where there are two ARMS. One is randomized to take Xtandi (Enzalutamide) and One is given Testosterone. The trial is to investigate if by adding testosterone it will drive the cancer into remission.

    I was randomized to the group taking Xtandi. So far I have had good results but when it does stop working (and it will eventually), I will cross over and start the testosterone injections. I am looking forward to that day. Stay tuned. I will keep you posted on the results.
    A. DiPierno – Moderator

  • Len Smith moderator
    2 years ago

    With my prostate out and a positive PSA two years later, my urological oncologist gave me a shot of ADT (Lupron to be precise) that was supposed to last 6 months just before I started radiation therapy. I’m sure the ADT lasted 10 months. (As I like to joke, I had to look up what S-E-X meant in the dictionary for 10 months.) But, as I said to the psychologist i was seeing, I was sure it gave me the severe depression (he heard a few times from me I was sure the depression was from “the damn shot”). And then I found the clinical study that was published in the 6/1/16 Journal of Clinical Oncology. The study showed that while the percent of those getting ADT was about same as for those who didn’t get the ADT therapy, those who had the ADT treatment had a 23% higher rate of severe depression and a 29% increase in the need for treatment in a medical facility. It is now 17 months after “the shot”; I’m seeing a psychiatrist at the VA who has me on the max dosage of an antidepressant drug, and the VA has me listed at 70% disability just for the depression (prostate cancer is an Agent Orange disease). The bottom line is you can get shots that last one, three and six months. In retrospect, if you get ADT treatment,I would start with the one month shot for a few months, not the six month shot initially.

  • sabaileytx
    1 year ago

    I have Gleason 9 cancer that’s spread to pelvic lymph nodes. I had prostatectomy with lymph nodes removed last September 2017. I prepare for radiation and ADT next month, February. I am getting the one month shot first. My radiation oncologist recommended this as well. After surgery, my PSA was undetectable. I hear this is common. But I also hear it’ll come back right after that. MD Anderson is treating me and said my cancer is very aggressive and dangerous. If I have 5 years, I don’t want to spend it depressed and without libido. I’m very confused but have had a hard time finding info from men who have Gleason 9 (5+4) Cancer with local node involvement. Part of the bladder neck was involved also. Any information on what to expect would be appreciated. I get PSA checked in about 10 days, which is five months after surgery. How likely will my PSA be undetectable?

  • Poll