Women with high testosterone levels 37% more likely to have type 2 diabetes – but the risk in men is REDUCED
High testosterone levels increase the risk of type 2 diabetes in women – but reduce the risk in men, a study shows.
Both men and women produce the ‘male’ sex hormone in various quantities, and scientists have now discovered that it can play a role in the risk of disease.
A study of more than 425,000 people from the UK looked at more than 2,500 genetic variations related to testosterone levels and an associated protein.
The results showed that women with genetically higher testosterone have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 37 percent.
They also had a 51 percent higher risk of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a “surprising” finding given high testosterone was thought to be a consequence of the condition.
Higher testosterone levels reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 14 percent in men, but increased the risk of prostate cancer.
Scientists insisted on more research into the effects of supplementation with testosterone based on their findings.
A higher testosterone level increases the risk of type 2 diabetes in women – but reduces the risk in men, research shows (women check blood sugar levels)
Having too much naturally occurring testosterone is a rare problem in men and has been associated with liver disease, heart attack and low sperm count.
Women also produce testosterone in smaller quantities than men. Those with more testosterone than average may experience breast reduction or a deeper voice.
The study by the University of Cambridge is the largest so far on the genetic regulation of sex hormone levels.
Scientists used genome-wide association studies with more than 425,000 British Biobank participants.
They identified 2,571 genetic variations related to differences in the levels of testosterone and the binding protein.
They discovered that women with higher testosterone had a 51 percent higher risk of PCOS, a condition characterized by excessive hair growth, weight gain and fertility problems.
Dr. co-author John Perry said this finding was “important” because high testosterone is usually seen as a consequence of PCOS, not a cause.
The NHS says that excess androgen – ‘male’ hormones in the body – cause physical signs such as excess facial or body hair as part of the condition.
Dr. Perry said: “We were surprised to see that testosterone seemed to increase the risk of women developing polycystic ovarian syndrome.
“The prevailing thought is that increased testosterone was only the result of the disease, but our research suggests that testosterone can also play a direct role in disease susceptibility.”
The risk of type 2 diabetes increased by 37 percent in women with higher testosterone. The metabolic disorder is also known as a complication of PCOS.
In men, higher testosterone generally had a protective effect and reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by nearly 15 percent.
Higher testosterone increased the risk of breast and endometrial cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
WHAT IS TESTOSTERONE?
Testosterone is the male sex hormone and is usually made in the testicles, but also in the adrenal glands that are close to the kidneys.
It causes the voice to become deeper, body hair grows and the genitals grow larger during puberty.
In addition to influencing libido and sperm production, it also plays a role in developing strong bones and muscles, and how the body distributes fat.
Women also create small amounts of the hormone in the ovaries and adrenal glands, and it affects their fertility and bones and muscles.
Too high or too low testosterone levels can cause various problems.
Low testosterone in men can cause erection problems, low sex drive, infertility, weakened muscles and bones, body fat and hair loss.
However, too much testosterone can cause puberty in boys under the age of nine, is linked to aggression, and may increase the risk of prostate problems, including cancer.
Male testosterone levels are usually highest when he is about 20 years old and naturally decrease with age.
There has been a link between prostate cancer and testosterone for some time, because experts believe that testosterone therapy can be a danger.
Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is prescribed for men with abnormally low testosterone levels, but health officials have warned of possible side effects such as a higher risk of prostate cancer, heart disease and strokes.
Dr. Perry said, “Testosterone-reducing therapies are widely used to treat prostate cancer, but until now it has been uncertain whether lower testosterone levels are also protective against the development of prostate cancer.”
The researcher said that the full impact of TRT on health is still unclear, and it is premature to advise healthy men to use it.
Dr. Perry said: “There is clearly a trade-off in treatment in men – a reduction in metabolic health risk but an increased susceptibility to prostate cancer.
“In general, much more information is needed about the effects of other diseases, particularly heart disease, to make more use of supplements in otherwise healthy people.”
Dr. Perry added: “We do not recommend anyone to use medication to change testosterone levels based on our findings.
“In women, testosterone appears to be harmful to risks of metabolic diseases and some cancers.”
Dr. Katherine Ruth from the University of Exeter: ‘Our findings offer unique insights into the disease burden of testosterone.
“Caution is needed when using our results to justify the use of testosterone supplements, until we can perform similar testosterone studies with other diseases, especially cardiovascular diseases.”
The authors, writing in the journal Nature Medicine, did not explain how testosterone levels affect disease risk.
They said their findings emphasize the importance of separating men and women when looking at how testosterone affects disease risk.