The connection between testosterone and cancer can best be described as a confusing one. Why is this so? Based on the findings of multiple studies, some have supported the hypothesis that testosterone can cause (or worsen) the development of specific androgen-dependent cancers. While other studies have found the opposite is true, and others again show that there is no relationship at all.
So where does this leave you? As with all things in life, nothing is set in stone. There are people who are far healthier than the average person, eat high cancer-protective diets and keep their weight in the normal range, who still develop cancer while other people with no regard for their health are still fine to this day.
So what gives? Cancer is highly unpredictable, but you can at least try to minimize your risk from known factors.
But back to the hormone at the heart of this discussion; testosterone. Let’s explore what it does.
Testosterone Boosts IGF-1
Many men use testosterone for its muscle building potential, whereby it promotes assimilation of amino acids and glucose into the muscle cell, causing hypertrophy (or an increase in size).
But that’s not all testosterone does. Much of testosterone’s power and danger lies in its action on a far less appreciated hormone; Insulin-like Growth Factor 1, or IGF-1.
IGF-1 has massive anabolic potential and is highly sought after in bodybuilding circles, but it also carries a strong potential to cause cellular hyperplasia.
Hyperplasia, in contrast to hypertrophy, is the actual splitting of cells or increasing their numbers, while hypertrophy is just an increase in size. Hyperplasia is not often troublesome but can spell danger for men (or women) with an unknown cancer risk just waiting to bust loose.
IGF-1 can be a loose cannon, that once unleashed can set cancer in motion. It is very important to note that just because we are referring to testosterone, it does not have to mean prostate or testicular cancer alone.
The effect of IGF-1 raises the risk of all cancers, though the specific type that develops is based on individual differences.
Determining Your Possible Cancer Risk
While it can be seen that it is possible for testosterone to set in motion cancer by the mechanism outlined above, the outcome is still more likely in a specific subset of men. Risk is generally higher based on your:
- Family History– familial traits are strong indicators, especially if you have a first degree relative with similar cancer (brother, father). Certain gene mutations have familial links, which means that a close set of family members may also develop cancer.
- Age– it used to be that cancer was more common in older men, but today testicular cancer, for example, is much more common in younger men. That does not include the various types of lymphomas and leukemia which may have a higher prevalence in younger people. Prostate cancer is generally more likely in older men, with an average age of onset of about 65.
- Exogenous Testosterone Administration– one thing that has been studied greatly is the administration of synthetic testosterone and the risk of cancer, more specifically prostate cancer, well over the association between cancer and normal testosterone ranges.
- Lifestyle– though nothing is certain in life as I previously mentioned, consuming a smart diet, workout out and not indulging heavily in recreational drugs, abstaining from smoking and drinking are the best things you can do to reduce your risk.
Minimizing Your Risk
It is impossible to guarantee that you will not develop cancer, either due to testosterone or not, but the best things you can do to reduce your risk are:
Do Not Use External Testosterone
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can vastly improve the quality of life of men, but in that same vein, it can also ruin countless others. Why? Because too often Testosterone shots are viewed as a panacea of sorts (heal-all) when this is clearly not the case.
Testosterone can even be viewed as anti-aging, owing to the effect of IGF-1 and subsequent stimulation of growth hormone (which rejuvenates cells), but at the cost of increasing cancer risk. Under normal circumstances, damaged cells have apoptosis (programmed death) mechanisms that destroy them when its time.
Artificially extending their life is a recipe for cancer genesis and should be avoided.
Smoking is a vice above all others owing to the range of carcinogens you are exposing yourself to every time you puff. Initiate a cessation plan; use the patches and gum and slowly wean yourself off or with professional help.
Consume A Diet Rich In Various Fruits And Veggies
While there is a good argument for going vegan completely, that is your prerogative. But at a minimum, have a hearty mix of veggies and fruits – eat the rainbow. Different colors tend to indicate the presence of many different compounds, so don’t miss out on what they have to offer.
Does this spell danger for the average man? Not really. Nothing needs to change in your quest for enhancing testosterone naturally, which is what I advocate that you do anyway. You should do regular bloodwork as well since early diagnosis is key to a successful cancer outcome.
Just as you cannot avoid all the germs you come into contact with on a daily basis; such is the inherent risk of cancer. Just be smart, and keep chugging away at your goals.