August 17, 2006

Low testosterone may up death risk in male vets

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In a study of male veterans,
low blood levels of the male hormone testosterone appeared to
increase the risk of death in the next few years by 88 percent.

In an earlier study, Dr. Molly M. Shores from the
University of Washington in Seattle and colleagues had shown an
increase in 6-month mortality among men with low testosterone
levels. The goal of the present study was to examine this
association in a larger group of men with up to 8 years of

The study involved 858 male veterans who were at least 40
years of age, prostate cancer-free, and had repeated
testosterone levels taken between October 1, 1994 and December
31, 1999.

The subjects included 166 with repeatedly low testosterone
levels, 240 with an equal number of low and normal levels, and
452 with consistently normal levels. They were followed through
2002, for an average of 4.3 years.

The mortality rate in the normal testosterone group was
roughly 20 percent, which is lower than the roughly 25 percent
and 35 percent rates noted in the equivocal and low
testosterone groups, respectively.

On "multivariate analysis," adjusting for age,
comorbidities, and other factors, only a consistently low
testosterone level was associated with a significantly
increased risk of death. This held true even after minimizing
the effect of acute illness by excluding men who died within
the first year of the study.

"The persistence of elevated mortality risk after excluding
early deaths suggests that the association between low
testosterone levels and mortality is not simply due to acute
illness," the authors conclude.

Still, "large prospective studies are needed to clarify the
association between low testosterone levels and mortality."

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine August 14/28, 2006.