Do steroids cause Prostate Cancer?

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Do steroids cause Prostate Cancer?

It is natural to think that if the development of prostate cancer is dependent on the levels of circulating androgens in the body, that steroids (which cause high circulating androgen levels) will contribute to the development of prostate cancer. But what does the science say?

One of the methods of treatment for active prostate cancer is using drugs to diminish androgens in the body, which leads one to think that having high circulating androgen levels are harmful. Several studies have shown that having higher testosterone does not put one at a higher risk of developing prostate cancer. In fact, steroid abusers with high levels of circulating androgens were not at increased risk of developing prostate cancer. Thus, androgens are necessary but not sufficient to cause prostate cancer.

However, although androgens do not cause prostate cancer, the scenario is different in patients with established/active prostate cancer. In vitro (test tube) studies have shown that prostate cancer cells respond strongly to androgens and in fact have a higher number of androgen receptors. In addition, someone with latent (undiagnosed) prostate cancer will progress more rapidly. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that steroids should not be used in someone with known or previous prostate cancer.

In conclusion, steroids do not increase the risk of developing prostate cancer, however, in someone with previous or active prostate cancer they should be avoided.

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