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April 2004

LE Magazine April 2004

Transdermal testosterone treatment in women with impaired sexual function after oophorectomy.
BACKGROUND: The ovaries provide approximately half the circulating testosterone in premenopausal women. After bilateral oophorectomy, many women report impaired sexual functioning despite estrogen replacement. We evaluated the effects of transdermal testosterone in women who had impaired sexual function after surgically induced menopause. METHODS: Seventy-five women, 31 to 56 years old, who had undergone oophorectomy and hysterectomy received conjugated equine estrogens (at least 0.625 mg per day orally) and, in random order, placebo, 150 microg of testosterone, and 300 microg of testosterone per day transdermally for 12 weeks each. Outcome measures included scores on the Brief Index of Sexual Functioning for Women, the Psychological General Well-Being Index, and a sexual-function diary completed over the telephone. RESULTS: The mean (+/-SD) serum free testosterone concentration increased from 1.2+/-0.8 pg per milliliter (4.2+/-2.8 pmol per liter) during placebo treatment to 3.9+/-2.4 pg per milliliter (13.5+/-8.3 pmol per liter) and 5.9+/-4.8 pg per milliliter (20.5+/-16.6 pmol per liter) during treatment with 150 and 300 microg of testosterone per day, respectively (normal range, 1.3 to 6.8 pg per milliliter [4.5 to 23.6 pmol per liter]). Despite an appreciable placebo response, the higher testosterone dose resulted in further increases in scores for frequency of sexual activity and pleasure-orgasm in the Brief index of Sexual Functioning for Women (P=0.03 for both comparisons with placebo). At the higher dose the percentages of women who had sexual fantasies, masturbated, or engaged in sexual intercourse at least once a week increased two to three times from base line. The positive-well-being, depressed-mood, and composite scores of the Psychological General Well-Being Index also improved at the higher dose (P=0.04, P=0.03, and P=0.04, respectively, for the comparison with placebo), but the scores on the telephone-based diary did not increase significantly. CONCLUSIONS: In women who have undergone oophorectomy and hysterectomy, transdermal testosterone improves sexual function and psychological well-being.

N Engl J Med . 2000 Sep 7;343(10):682-8

Androgen replacement in women: a commentary.
There is increasing evidence to suggest that many postmenopausal women experience symptoms alleviated by androgen therapy and that such symptoms may be secondary to androgen deficiency. Affected women complain of fatigue, low libido, and diminished well-being, symptoms easily and frequently attributed to psychosocial and environmental factors. When such symptoms occur in the setting of low circulating bioavailable testosterone, testosterone replacement results in significant improvement in symptomatology and, hence, quality of life for the majority of women. Whether the apparent therapeutic effects of testosterone replacement are mediated by testosterone and its metabolite 5alpha- dihydrotestosterone or are a consequence of aromatization to estrogen is not known. Despite the paucity of data regarding its effects, inclusion of testosterone in postmenopausal hormone replacement regimens is not uncommon and is likely to become more widespread with the availability of preparations developed specifically for women. Other novel and even more controversial potential indications for androgen therapy in women are currently being evaluated. These include use in women with premature ovarian failure, premenopausal androgen deficiency symptoms, postmenopausal and glucocorticosteroid-related bone loss, alleviation of wasting syndrome secondary to human immunodeficiency virus infection, and management of premenstrual syndrome. The aim of this commentary is to very briefly review the rationale for the use of testosterone in women, create awareness of some of the therapeutic options available in various countries, and stimulate discussion of this important aspect of women's health.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1999 Jun;84(6):1886-91

Androgens and female sexuality.
An accumulating body of data indicates that many women experience a cluster of symptoms that are responsive to testosterone treatment and may be due to androgen deficiency. Characteristically, affected women complain of low libido, persistent fatigue, and diminished well-being and are found to have low circulating bioavailable testosterone. Whether the apparent therapeutic effects of testosterone are mediated via the androgen receptor or as a consequence of metabolism to estrogen is not known. Despite the lack of understanding of the mechanism(s) by which testosterone may enhance libido, the prescription of testosterone to women in a variety of formulations is becoming increasingly popular. This article provides an overview of the rationale for testosterone therapy in women, offers a broad definition of androgen deficiency in women based on the clinical experience of the author, and outlines the currently available options and potential risks of testosterone replacement in women.

J Gend Specif Med. 2000 Jan-Feb;3(1):36-40

Testosterone enhances estradiol's effects on postmenopausal bone density and sexuality.
To investigate the role of androgens in increasing bone density and improving low libido in postmenopausal women, we have studied the long-term effects of estradiol and testosterone implants on bone mineral density and sexuality in a prospective, 2 year, single-blind randomised trial. Thirty-four postmenopausal volunteers were randomised to treatment with either estradiol implants 50 mg alone (E) or estradiol 50 mg plus testosterone 50 mg (E&T), administered 3-monthly for 2 years. Cyclical oral progestins were taken by those women with an intact uterus. Thirty-two women completed the study. BMD (DEXA) of total body, lumbar vertebrae (L1-L4) and hip area increased significantly in both treatment groups. BMD increased more rapidly in the testosterone treated group at all sites. A substantially greater increase in BMD occurred in the E&T group for total body (P < 0.008), vertebral L1-L4 (P < 0.001) and trochanteric (P < 0.005) measurements. All sexual parameters (Sabbatsberg sexual self-rating scale) improved significantly in both groups. Addition of testosterone resulted in a significantly greater improvement compared to E for sexual activity (P < 0.03), satisfaction (P < 0.03), pleasure (P < 0.01), orgasm (P < 0.035) and relevancy (P < 0.05). Total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol fell in both groups as did total body fat. Total body fat-free mass (DEXA, anthropometry, impedance) increased in the E&T group only. We concluded that in postmenopausal women, treatment with combined estradiol and testosterone implants was more effective in increasing bone mineral density in the hip and lumbar spine than estradiol implants alone. Significantly greater improvement in sexuality was observed with combined therapy, verifying the therapeutic value of testosterone implants for diminished libido in postmenopausal women. The favourable estrogenic effects on lipids were preserved in women treated with T, in association with beneficial changes in body composition.

Maturitas . 1995 Apr;21(3):227-36

Exogenous androgens influence body composition and regional body fat distribution in obese postmenopausal women--a clinical research center study.
Abdominal fat distribution is influenced by androgen levels in both men and women. The purpose of this study was to assess the effects on fat distribution of administering nandrolone decanoate (ND; an anabolic steroid with weak androgenic activity) or spironolactone (SP; an antiandrogen) in obese postmenopausal women. The design was a randomized, placebo-controlled, 9-month trial with simultaneous calorie restriction for weight loss. Women in all three groups lost comparable amounts of weight, but the ND-treated women gained lean mass relative to the other two groups (P < 0.0005) and lost more body fat than women in the SP group (P < 0.01). The resting metabolic rate also increased slightly in the ND group. ND treatment produced a gain in visceral fat, as determined by computed tomography scan, and a relatively greater loss of sc abdominal fat. SP-treated women lost significantly less sc fat than the other two groups. Serum cholesterol decreased in the placebo group, but increased slightly in the other two groups (significant for SP vs. placebo, P < 0.05). High density lipoprotein cholesterol decreased significantly in the ND-treated women. There were no significant changes in fasting glucose or insulin sensitivity. We conclude that administration of exogenous androgens modulates body composition in obese postmenopausal women and independently affects visceral and sc abdominal fat.

J Clin Endocrinol Metab . 1996 Jun;81(6):2198-203

Testosterone deficiency: a key factor in the increased cardiovascular risk to women following hysterectomy or with natural aging?
The ovaries are a critical source not only of estrogen but also of testosterone. On removal of the uterus, even in instances where ovaries have been spared, their function can be compromised. Women who have had a simple hysterectomy (ovaries remaining intact), even if treated postsurgically with supplementary estrogen, have three times the risk of cardiovascular disease compared with women who have not had a hysterectomy. In men, testosterone has been demonstrated to have beneficial fibrinolytic effects and beneficial effects on blood vessel endothelium, in blood sugar and insulin metabolism, and in maintaining coronary artery circulation. Studies on the potential cardiovascular protective effects of physiologic levels of testosterone in women are critically needed. Restoring a physiologic level of testosterone to women after hysterectomy not only can improve quality of life in terms of sexual libido, sexual pleasure, and sense of well-being but also can build bones--and may be a key to protecting cardiovascular health. Women developing testosterone deficiency as a consequence of natural aging/menopause may similarly benefit from physiologic testosterone supplementation.

J Womens Health . 1998 Sep;7(7):825-9

Serum sex hormone levels after menopause and subsequent breast cancer.
BACKGROUND: High levels of androgens and estrogens have been reported to be associated with breast cancer. However, the multiplicity of factors that influence hormone levels and methodologic issues complicate the study of the relationship between steroid sex hormones and breast cancer. PURPOSE: Using an improved study design, we assessed prospectively the relationship between the principal steroid sex hormones in serum and the subsequent occurrence of invasive breast cancer in postmenopausal women. METHODS: Four thousand fifty-three healthy postmenopausal women aged 40-69 years, were enrolled from June 1987 through June 1992 in a prospective investigation of hormones and diet in the etiology of breast tumors (ORDET study) as part of a larger volunteer cohort of 10 788 premenopausal and postmenopausal women from Varese Province, northern Italy. At recruitment, blood samples were taken between 8:00 AM and 9:30 AM (after overnight fasting), and sera were preserved in -80 degree Celsius freezers. Women who had received hormone treatment in the 3 months prior to enrollment, who had bilateral ovariectomy, or who had a history of cancer or liver disease were not recruited. Twenty-five women in the final eligible cohort of postmenopausal women developed histologically confirmed, invasive breast cancer during the first 3.5 years of follow-up for the cohort (13 537 women-years). For each case subject, four control subjects were randomly chosen after matching for factors possibly affecting hormone preservation in serum. One case subject and eight control subjects were excluded because premenopausal hormonal patterns were found; thus, after also excluding the four control subjects matched to the ineligible case subject, we included 24 case and 88 control subjects. In the spring of 1994, stored sera of case and control subjects were assayed in a blinded manner for dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and estradiol (E2) by in-house radioimmunoassay and for total and free testosterone and sex hormone-binding globulin by commercially available nonextraction iodination kits. Mean differences in risk factors were tested by analysis of variance for paired data. Relative risks (RRs) were estimated by conditional logistic regression analysis. All P values resulted from two-sided tests. RESULTS: Age-adjusted mean values of total testosterone, free testosterone, and E2 were significantly higher in case subjects than in control subjects: total testosterone, 0.34 ng/mL versus 0.25 ng/mL (P<.001); free testosterone, 1.07 pg/ml versus 0.77 pg/mL (P= .006); and E2, 25 pg/mL versus 22 pg/mL (P= .027). Age-adjusted RRs for breast cancer in increasing tertiles were as follows: for total testosterone, 1.0, 4.8, and 7.0 (P for trend =.026); for free testosterone, 1.0, 1.8, and 5.7 (P for trend=.005); and for total E2, 1.0, 7.1, and 5.5 (P for trend= .128). CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: This prospective study provides further evidence in support of the already established association between elevated estrogen levels and breast cancer. Even more importantly, it provides new evidence that high serum testosterone levels precede breast cancer occurrence.

J Natl Cancer Inst . 1996 Mar 6;88(5):291-6