Can You Take Testosterone If You Have Prostate Cancer?

Testosterone replacement can be dangerous for people who have prostate cancer. When it is used, it has to be used with caution. It can increase the risk of prostate cancer recurrence for some people who are at high risk.

Testosterone replacement is considered safe for people who are at low risk for a recurrence and who have had adequate therapy and are considered to be in remission.

Man looking out window

Testosterone Laboratory Blood Testing

Blood tests are a factor that is used to determine whether testosterone replacement is needed. If you are having your testosterone level checked with a home test or at a laboratory as ordered by your doctor, your results might not be clear-cut.

Issues that affect blood levels of testosterone:

  • Testosterone blood levels are higher in the morning and lower in the evening. A test drawn at 4 pm that was “low” may simply be outside the normal range due to the time of day the blood was taken.
  • There are two types of testosterone tests: total testosterone and free testosterone. Most routine tests only measure total testosterone. However, free testosterone is a much more accurate measure of the physiologic activity of testosterone.

Making a decision about your need for testosterone therapy is not based solely on the level of testosterone in your blood. It is equally important to consider your symptoms and whether they are indicative of low testosterone levels.

Testosterone Therapy and Prostate Cancer

Testosterone therapy may increase the risk of prostate cancer recurrence for some people.

Some factors that are particularly associated with a high risk of recurrence:

  • Extraprostatic extension (spread of cancer outside the prostate)
  • Positive margins
  • Positive nodes
  • Gleason scores of 8 or more on biopsy
  • Invasion of the seminal vesicles

There are some situations when testosterone therapy would not be harmful and may be beneficial for people who have had prostate cancer.

  • Men who have low-grade or benign tumors
  • Men who have completed therapy with surgery or radiation and appear to be cured can use testosterone therapy after an appropriate waiting period between two and five years. The risk of cancer recurrence at this point is generally quite low.
  • When a man with known prostate cancer has a low testosterone level and severe physical infirmity or very advanced muscle loss that is associated with notable weakness.

Why the Confusion?

The confusion about using testosterone therapy in men with known prostate cancer arises because prostate cancer is not a single illness.

There are:

  • Low, intermediate, and high-grade forms
  • Localized disease and metastatic cancer
  • Hormonally sensitive types and types that are insensitive to hormone treatment

A single protocol would not be universally appropriate for every type of prostate cancer.

Testosterone Therapy Administration and Risks

Testosterone therapy comes in different formulations, including short or long-acting injections, creams, gels, and transdermal patches. Additionally, there is an approved oral treatment option.

There is variability in the way that men will respond to testosterone therapy. For some people, the impact of testosterone replacement is prompt and dramatic. In other men, even after an adequate trial period of six months, a noticeable benefit may be lacking.

The only way to know for sure whether you will benefit from testosterone is to give it an adequate trial period.

Testosterone replacement can increase the risk of blood clots. Long-term testosterone replacement therapy is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and strokes, particularly in older males.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lab Tests Online. Testosterone.

  2. Bell MA, Campbell JD, Joice G, Sopko NA, Burnett AL. Shifting the paradigm of testosterone replacement therapy in prostate cancer. World J Mens Health. 2018;36(2):103. doi:10.5534/wjmh.170007

  3. Eisenberg ML. Testosterone replacement therapy and prostate cancer incidence. World J Mens Health. 2015;33(3):125. doi:10.5534/wjmh.2015.33.3.125

  4. Kaplan AL, Hu JC, Morgentaler A, Mulhall JP, Schulman CC, Montorsi F. Testosterone therapy in men with prostate cancer. Eur Urol. 2016;69(5):894-903. doi:10.1016/j.eururo.2015.12.005

By Mark Scholz, MD
Mark Scholz, MD, is a board-certified oncologist and expert on prostate cancer.