Men with high testosterone levels are at increased risk of developing life-threatening skin cancer, researchers have found.
According to Cancer Research UK, which funded the study, one in 36 UK men and one in 47 UK women will be diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer in their lifetime. He said 86% of melanoma cases were preventable, usually caused by using tanning beds or staying in the sun, but other factors influenced who is most at risk, including age and genetics.
Testosterone levels can also be a factor, at least in men. “There has been indirect evidence of testosterone and melanoma before, but this is the first time that we have been able to directly look at hormones in the blood,” said Dr. Eleanor Watts, first author of the research from the University of Oxford. “Although we have seen associations of prostate, breast and endometrial cancer [with testosterone] before, this is the first time we’ve seen an association with melanoma risk in men. “
Writing in the International Journal of Cancer, Watts and colleagues report that they studied data related to testosterone levels in blood samples collected by the UK Biobank from 182,600 men and 122,100 postmenopausal women between the ages of 40 and 69.
All participants were cancer-free for at least two years after the samples were taken and were not taking hormone-related medications at the start of the study.
The researchers looked at both the total testosterone level in the blood samples as well as the freely circulating levels – in other words, testosterone that was not bound to protein. They then used national registries and NHS registries to explore whether the participants developed or died of cancer.
Results show that in 2015-16, after follow-up for an average of seven years, 9,519 men and 5,632 postmenopausal women had been diagnosed with malignant cancer (5.2% and 4.6% of participants respectively). . Non-melanoma skin cancer cases were not included.
The team then took into account a number of factors, including ethnicity, body mass index, smoking, alcohol consumption, and physical activity to explore whether there was a correlation between testosterone levels and particular cancers.
The results show that for men, higher levels of testosterone, either free or total, were associated with an increased risk of developing malignant melanoma. In fact, every 50 pmol / L increase in free testosterone was found to increase the chance of developing this cancer by 35%. According to Watts, 90% of the men included in the study had free testosterone concentrations between 130 pmol / L and 310 pmol / L.
Among other findings, higher levels of freely circulating testosterone were associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer in men, while in postmenopausal women, higher levels of testosterone, either freely circulating or in total, were associated with a higher chance of endometrium and breast cancer.
But there are limitations. “It’s really hard to say for sure that it is testosterone that has these effects rather than some other biomarker linked to it,” Watts said, adding that more research is needed.
Hashim Ahmed, professor of urology at Imperial College London said: “This large study showing a possible link of testosterone to skin cancer adds insight into another cancer that could be prevented or treated with hormones. We have already treated prostate cancer treatment with anti-testosterone drugs and there is some evidence that prostate cancer could be prevented with anti-testosterone drugs, and I look forward to seeing if similar approaches might be helpful for melanoma. “
Dr. Samra Turajlic, a consulting oncologist at the Royal Marsden and a group leader at the Francis Crick Institute, cautioned that the study did not prove that high testosterone levels cause melanoma.
“This study does not answer whether testosterone levels are linked to behavioral patterns with respect to sun exposure, including occupational exposure, or whether testosterone in any way changes the risk of developing melanomas after sun exposure,” He said. “For everyone, regardless of gender, the number one way to reduce the risk of skin cancer, including melanoma, is to avoid and reduce harmful exposure to the sun.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism