Testosterone therapy isn't just for men. New research from Brigham and Women's Hospital has found that the male hormone helps improve muscle mass, physical function, and sexual health in women who have undergone hysterectomy.
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Hysterectomy and oophorectomy (the removal of ovaries) are performed to treat various diseases in women, including cancer. They often lead to a decline in estrogen but also testosterone levels in the blood, causing sexual dysfunction, fatigue, low mood, and decreased muscle mass.
But the new BWH research, published in the journal Menopause, found that giving testosterone to women with low levels of the hormone helps ease those symptoms.
"Recently, there has been a lot of interest in testosterone treatment in postmenopausal women for sexual dysfunction and other various health conditions," explained Grace Huang, M.D., a research physician in BWH's Department of Endocrinology and lead author of the study "However, no previous studies have evaluated the benefits and negative effects of testosterone replacement over a wide range of doses."
For the study, researchers tracked 71 women over the course of 24 weeks. Participants were randomly assigned either to placebo or one of four testosterone doses given weekly. The results showed women who received the highest doses of the hormone reported the most gains in sexual function, muscle mass, and measures of physical performance.
"A primary concern with testosterone therapy is that it can cause symptoms of masculinization among women. These symptoms include unwanted hair growth, acne and lower voice tone," explained Huang. "It's important to note that very few of these side effects were seen in our study."
The Food and Drug Administration has not approved testosterone therapy for women because of inadequate long-term safety data. The researchers said more studies are needed to determine if testosterone can be given safely to women.
This study was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.
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