Testosterone, a steroid hormone, is predominantly a male sex hormone that triggers the development of secondary sex characteristics in men.
However, testosterone is also secreted in women in small amounts. Along with estrogen, testosterone promotes the growth and repair of the reproductive organs in women.
A new study published in the journal of Nature Medicine has found that women who have genetically higher testosterone levels are at greater risk of developing cancer, diabetes, and metabolic diseases.
Researchers from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge said the link has been found in women and not in men. On the other hand, the risk of cancer and diabetes reduced in men who have higher levels of testosterone.
The researchers said women with genetically higher T levels have a 37 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Also, they had a 51 percent increased risk of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Furthermore, the researchers found that women with high T levels are more likely to develop cancer, including breast and endometrial cancer. In men, high T levels have been linked to increased risk of prostate cancer.
The study demonstrated that the genetic determinants of testosterone levels vary between sexes.
Dr. John Perry from the University of Cambridge said, “Our findings that genetically higher testosterone levels increase the risk of PCOS in women is important in understanding the role of testosterone in the origin of this common disorder, rather than simply being a consequence of this condition.”
“Likewise, in men, testosterone-reducing therapies are widely used to treat prostate cancer, but until now it was uncertain whether lower testosterone levels are also protective against developing prostate cancer,” he added. “Our findings show how genetic techniques such as Mendelian randomization are useful in the understanding of the risks and benefits of hormone therapies.”
The researchers explained that the study suggests the importance of sex-specific analyses on testosterone and its effect on health.
They also explained that the findings highly the impacts of testosterone in the body and how to overcome abnormal levels in order to prevent metabolic diseases, cancer, and diabetes. These conditions can lead to disability and premature death if left treated.