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Hormone therapy may help middle-age men, too

While hormone therapy for middle-age women is becoming more widely used, hormone therapy for the middle-age man is a relative newcomer.

There are researchers who believe that testosterone boosters are a good counter to symptoms of "male menopause."

As they age, men typically produce less testosterone, the hormone primarily responsible for characteristics such as hair growth and sex drive. However, the decline in testosterone production usually is not as great as many think: Two-thirds of men over 65 produce as much or more testosterone than healthy 20-year-olds. Health problems such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes and drinking or smoking also cut testosterone levels.

For some men, however, testosterone pills, injections or patches can make a difference.

"When I treat these men with testosterone, their erections get a little bit better, their sex drive is better, they do feel better," says urologist Allen Seftel of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Testosterone treatments are not without risks. Too much testosterone is a risk factor for benign prostate enlargement and prostate cancer, two problems that afflict millions of men.

"It may well be that the lowered testosterone one sees with aging is a self-protective event," Seftel says. "The body may be protecting against enlarged prostate by dropping down in testosterone production."

Hormone expert Jerald Bain of the University of Toronto is starting a study to determine whether testosterone treatment can have an impact on what he calls "andropause" - the wide range of symptoms often seen in middle-age men.

"Symptoms may include weakness, lethargy, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, uncertainty about life and meaning-of-life issues (like) 'should I continue with my girlfriend who provides wild sex or with my wife who provides a stable home?' All of these issues arise," Bain says.

His study will follow 100 men for two months to see whether hormone treatment makes a difference compared with a placebo.



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