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DHEA and Men

One of our members wishes to highlight the side-effects for men in the use of DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) supplements. The following extracts are taken from the book - Dr. Peter Scardino's Prostate Book: The Complete Guide to Overcoming Prostate Cancer, Prostatitis and BPH


Dehydroepiandrosterone, a steroidal hormone similar to testosterone, is produced naturally by the adrenal glands. Peak production starts to decline in one’s early 30s, and sinks to a mere 20 percent of the lifetime maximum by age 75. The function of DHEA in the body remains unclear. All that researchers agree on completely is that the hormone can be converted into either testosterone or estrogen.

A synthetic form of DHEA has been touted as a veritable fountain of youth in handy, over-the-counter pill form. People marketing the drug claim that it improves erectile function, causes weight loss, and increases muscle mass without diet and exercise. Banner ads in the media and on the Internet maintain that this wonder substance cures chronic diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, lupus, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Purveyors also tout DHEA as a cancer preventative, an immune-system booster, and a quick fix for depression and fatigue.

As with anything that sounds too good to be true, there is ample cause for serious scepticism. Synthetic DHEA is sold as a dietary supplement, not a medication, and is therefore not subject to regulation by the Food and Drug Administration. Despite the hype about its potential to halt or even reverse many signs of aging, the safety and effectiveness of DHEA have not been proven. Also, because the supplements are unregulated, the purity and dosage of what you may be getting are not guaranteed. DHEA supplements may also carry significant health risks, including a possible increase in prostate cancer, worsening of BPH, and possible liver damage.


A few early studies suggested that workers exposed to the heavy metal cadmium in mining or in nickel cadmium battery manufacturing plants ran an increased prostate cancer risk. Cadmium is a known carcinogen that is weakly associated with the risk of developing lung cancer, but more recent, more extensive investigations have failed to confirm any causative link to prostate cancer.

Dioxin is a toxic by-product of Agent Orange, which was widely used as an herbicide during the Vietnam War. Though the issue of whether or not dioxin causes prostate cancer has not been resolved, the government provides benefits for veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and subsequently develop the disease.

Studies have failed to confirm anecdotal observations that smoking and/or heavy alcohol consumption might increase prostate cancer risk, though avoiding both is wise for many other health reasons.

Anabolic steroids were developed in the 1930s to treat testosterone deficiencies. Today, they are frequently abused by athletes attempting to boost their performance or beef up their appearance. Some of these drugs, including DHEA, are legally and readily available without a prescription, though they may cause heart disease, testicular shrinkage, breast enlargement, mania, depression, violent behaviour, severe acne, and cancers of the kidney, liver and prostate. In recognition of its dangers, androstenedione was declared a controlled substance by the FDA in 2005. While the precise level of risk posed by anabolic steroids has not been fully documented, androgens are such a powerful stimulus for prostate cancer, and this disease is such a significant risk for all men, that I strongly recommend against using these bodybuilding substances.


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