Feature

Health scare of the week: The selling of testosterone

Men who take testosterone when they don’t really need it are risking potentially dangerous side effects.

Drug companies tout testosterone therapy as an easy way for men to boost their energy, amp up their sex drive, and build muscle. But a new study suggests that many men are taking testosterone when they don’t really need it, risking potentially dangerous side effects. Between 2001 and 2011, testosterone prescriptions for men 40 and older tripled, but a quarter of them hadn’t first taken a blood test to determine whether they actually had a low testosterone level, a condition called hypogonadism or “low T.” Doctors often prescribe the drug for fatigue or a drop in libido, which could be symptoms of other health problems, such as depression, or just the result of normal aging. Testosterone therapy may cause acne and lower men’s sperm count, as well as increase their risk of liver damage, heart disease, and some cancers. Men in their 40s are the fastest-growing group of testosterone users, and its long-term effects are unclear. “Relatively healthy men who are starting testosterone at age 40 are potentially going to be exposed for a very long time,’’ University of Texas epidemiologist Jacques Baillargeon tells The New York Times. “We don’t know what the risks are.”

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