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New Understanding of the Role of Testosterone in Women

Friday, March 28, 2008 by: Barbara L. Minton
Tags: testosterone, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) Testosterone is known as the personality hormone. It gives us motivation, assertiveness, a sense of power, feeling of well being and enhanced sex drive. When we have an adequate level of testosterone we are able to take risks and live our lives with zest. Without testosterone we exist as if in black and white. It is testosterone that brings us into full living color.

Testosterone conveys powerful anti-aging effects. It turns fat into muscle, keeps skin supple, increases bone mineral density, gives us positive mood, and boosts our ability to handle stress. It supports cognitive functioning, and keeps the liver and blood vessels clean. Low testosterone levels have been associated with heart attack, Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, and depression. If you are freezing cold all the time and your thyroid levels are adequate, you are probably low on testosterone. For women, a little bit of testosterone can go a long way in improving looks, figure, energy level, outlook on life, enjoyment of living, sex appeal and sexual fulfillment.

Women produce increased amounts of testosterone during puberty. Levels of testosterone peak for women in their early twenties. The decrease in sex drive through the twenties, thirties and forties is often exacerbated by oral contraceptives which suppress all sex hormone production (testosterone, estrogens and progesterone). By the time a woman has reached natural menopause, she may have only half of the level of testosterone she once had.

Since the results of the Women's Health Initiative Study, women have been reluctant or even fearful of supplementing falling hormone levels. If a woman does choose hormone therapy, she finds that the replacement of estrogen alone does not correct an absent sex drive, loss of muscle tone or general lack of mental "get-up and go". The good news is that several recent studies have documented the safety and efficacy of testosterone replacement. In fact, studies have shown that testosterone may be protective of breast tissue.

Studies and Results

As published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA, February 25, 2008, researchers designed a study to determine the role of progesterone and testosterone in mammary carcinogenesis. Ovariectomized (ovaries surgically removed) rats were continuously exposed to low and high dose estrogen plus progesterone, and with high dose estrogen plus progesterone plus testosterone. The results indicate that continuous exposure to high concentrations of estrogen alone did not induce mammary carcinogenesis in the rats. Mammary carcinogenesis in these rats required continuous exposure to high concentrations of estrogen and progesterone. The addition of testosterone propionate did not affect tumor incidence in the rats.

According to Menopause, March-April, 2007, researchers suggest that androgens such as testosterone may counteract the proliferative effects of estrogen and progestogen (synthetic progesterone) in the mammary gland. Their study was designed to assess the effects of testosterone addition on breast cell proliferation during postmenopausal estrogen/progestogen therapy. In this 6 month prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 99 postmenopausal women were given continuous combined estradiol/progestogen and were equally randomly assigned to receive additional treatment with either a testosterone patch or a placebo patch. Breast cells were collected by needle biopsy at baseline and after 6 months. Results indicate a total of 88 women, 47 receiving active treatment and 41 in the placebo group, completed the study. In the placebo group there was a more than five fold increase in total breast cell proliferation from baseline to 6 months. With testosterone addition, no significant increase was recorded. The different effects of the two treatments were apparent in both epithelial and stromal cells. Researchers concluded that the addition of testosterone may counteract breast cell proliferation as induced by estrogen/progestogen therapy in postmenopausal women.

From The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2006, comes a study that concludes that hormone-deficient women who tried a testosterone patch for a year grew stronger bones, bigger muscles, and a more robust libido. In the double-blind investigation, 51 premenopausal women were divided. Half received the testosterone patch while the other half received a placebo. The women were evaluated at intervals during 12 months. After one year, x-ray absorptiometry revealed significantly improved bone mineral density in the testosterone group. Hip density improved by an average of 1% compared to a 1% loss in the placebo group. Muscle mass grew by 7% in the testosterone group compared to a 1.5% loss in the placebo group. Women in the treatment group reported significantly better overall mood and sexual functioning including increased arousal and overall better sexual experiences. A dose of testosterone was just 6% of a standard male dose.

The FASEB Journal, September 2000 edition reports a study investigating the effect of sex steroids on primate mammary epithelial proliferation and steroid receptor gene expression. Ovariectomized rhesus monkeys were treated with placebo, 17beta estradiol alone or in combination with progesterone or testosterone. Estradiol alone increased mammary epithelial proliferation by approximately sixfold and increased mammary epithelial estrogen receptor expression by approximately 50%. Progesterone did not alter estradiol's proliferative effects, but testosterone reduced estradiol proliferation by approximately 40%, and entirely abolished estradiol induced augmentation of estrogen receptor alpha expression. Androgen receptor levels were not altered by estradiol alone but were significantly reduced by the estradiol/testosterone treatment. Researchers concluded that androgen induced down-regulation of mammary epithelial proliferation and estrogen receptor expression suggests that combined estrogen/androgen hormone replacement may reduce the risk of breast cancer associated with estrogen replacement.

Treatment Alternatives

In healthy young women, testosterone is secreted all day long with a peak in early morning, indicating that ideal replacement would follow this pattern. The two common delivery systems for bio-identical testosterone are oral and parenteral, meaning through the skin or by injection.

While oral tablets are easy to use, they may dramatically raise the testosterone level, only to have it drop a few hours later. Oral testosterone is absorbed and sent directly to the liver to be metabolized. There it is able to affect enzyme systems and raise the potential for liver dysfunction. Much of this testosterone is deactivated by liver cells. Oral testosterone is only allowed in Canada and the US, and research on it continues.

Another delivery method is testosterone lozenges that slowly dissolve in the mouth. The idea is to have the hormone absorbed through the lymphatics (under the tongue) and not swallowed, so that much of the negative effects of liver metabolism are avoided. Lozenges are available through compounding pharmacies.

There are intramuscular injections of testosterone, usually given monthly. A testosterone patch is also available as well as testosterone gel.

These delivery systems provide an acceptable dosing with testosterone at a fairly economical level. If you have a good amount of money to spend, you might want to try testosterone pellets.

Pellets made by a compounding pharmacy are inserted under the skin of the hip or abdomen. The testosterone is release over a period lasting up to 120 days, and most closely mimics the natural release of testosterone into the body. Aside from the five minutes required for the insertions, this is the most hassle free method of supplementation.

About the author

Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.

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