Regardless of the method of testosterone treatment chosen, patients will require regular monitoring during the first year of treatment in order to monitor clinical response to testosterone, testosterone levels and adverse effects, including prostate cancer (see Table 2). It is recommended that patients should be reviewed at least every three months during this time. Once treatment has been established, less frequent review is appropriate but the care of the patient should be the responsibility of an appropriately trained specialist with sufficient experience of managing patients treated with testosterone.
Epidemiological evidence supports a link between testosterone and glucose metabolism. Studies in non-diabetic men have found an inverse correlation of total or free testosterone with glucose and insulin levels (Simon et al 1992; Haffner et al 1994) and studies show lower testosterone levels in patients with the metabolic syndrome (Laaksonen et al 2003; Muller et al 2005; Kupelian et al 2006) or diabetes (Barrett-Connor 1992; Andersson et al 1994; Rhoden et al 2005). A study of patients with type 2 diabetes using measurement of serum free testosterone by the gold standard method of equilibrium dialysis, found a 33% prevalence of biochemical hypogonadism (Dhindsa et al 2004). The Barnsley study demonstrated a high prevalence of clinical and biochemical hypogonadism with 19% having total testosterone levels below 8 nmol/l and a further 25% between 8–12 nmol/l (Kapoor, Aldred et al 2007). There are also a number longitudinal studies linking low serum testosterone levels to the future development of the metabolic syndrome (Laaksonen et al 2004) or type 2 diabetes (Haffner et al 1996; Tibblin et al 1996; Stellato et al 2000; Oh et al 2002; Laaksonen et al 2004), indicating a possible role of hypogonadism in the pathogenesis of type 2 diabetes in men. Alternatively, it has been postulated that obesity may be the common link between low testosterone levels and insulin resistance, diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Phillips et al 2003; Kapoor et al 2005). With regard to this hypothesis, study findings vary as to whether the association of testosterone with diabetes occurs independently of obesity (Haffner et al 1996; Laaksonen et al 2003; Rhoden et al 2005).
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In non-human primates, it may be that testosterone in puberty stimulates sexual arousal, which allows the primate to increasingly seek out sexual experiences with females and thus creates a sexual preference for females. Some research has also indicated that if testosterone is eliminated in an adult male human or other adult male primate's system, its sexual motivation decreases, but there is no corresponding decrease in ability to engage in sexual activity (mounting, ejaculating, etc.).
Longitudinal studies in male aging studies have shown that serum testosterone levels decline with age (Harman et al 2001; Feldman et al 2002). Total testosterone levels fall at an average of 1.6% per year whilst free and bioavailable levels fall by 2%–3% per year. The reduction in free and bioavailable testosterone levels is larger because aging is also associated with increases in SHBG levels (Feldman et al 2002). Cross-sectional data supports these trends but has usually shown smaller reductions in testosterone levels with aging (Feldman et al 2002). This is likely to reflect strict entry criteria to cross-sectional studies so that young healthy men are compared to older healthy men. During the course of longitudinal studies some men may develop pathologies which accentuate decreases in testosterone levels.
Decreased testosterone production in men with rheumatoid arthritis is a common finding (Stafford et al 2000), and it is now generally recognized that androgens have the capacity to suppress both the hormonal and cellular immune response and so act as one of the body’s natural anti-inflammatory agents (Cutolo et al 2002). This known anti-inflammatory action of testosterone has led to studying the effect of testosterone therapy in men with rheumatoid disease. Although not all studies have reported positive effects of testosterone treatment (Hall et al 1996), some studies do demonstrate an improvement in both clinical and chemical markers of the immune response (Cutolo et al 1991; Cutolo 2000). This observation would go along with more recent evidence that testosterone or its metabolites protects immunity by preserving the number of regulatory T cells and the activation of CD8+ T cells (Page et al 2006).