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Open Access Research article

The effect of statins on testosterone in men and women, a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

C Mary Schooling12*, Shiu Lun Au Yeung2, Guy Freeman2 and Benjamin J Cowling2

Author Affiliations

1 CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, 2180 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10035, USA

2 Department of Community Medicine, School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Units 624-627, Core F, Cyberport 3, 100 Cyberport Road, Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

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BMC Medicine 2013, 11:57  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-57

Published: 28 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Statins are extensively used for cardiovascular disease prevention. Statins reduce mortality rates more than other lipid-modulating drugs, although evidence from randomized controlled trials also suggests that statins unexpectedly increase the risk of diabetes and improve immune function. Physiologically, statins would be expected to lower androgens because statins inhibit production of the substrate for the local synthesis of androgens and statins' pleiotropic effects are somewhat similar to the physiological effects of lowering testosterone, so we hypothesized that statins lower testosterone.

Methods

A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled randomized trials of statins to test the a priori hypothesis that statins lower testosterone. We searched the PubMed, Medline and ISI Web of Science databases until the end of 2011, using '(Testosterone OR androgen) AND (CS-514 OR statin OR simvastatin OR atorvastatin OR fluvastatin OR lovastatin OR rosuvastatin OR pravastatin)' restricted to randomized controlled trials in English, supplemented by a bibliographic search. We included studies with durations of 2+ weeks reporting changes in testosterone. Two reviewers independently searched, selected and assessed study quality. Two statisticians independently abstracted and analyzed data, using random or fixed effects models, as appropriate, with inverse variance weighting.

Results

Of the 29 studies identified 11 were eligible. In 5 homogenous trials of 501 men, mainly middle aged with hypercholesterolemia, statins lowered testosterone by -0.66 nmol/l (95% confidence interval (CI) -0.14 to -1.18). In 6 heterogeneous trials of 368 young women with polycystic ovary syndrome, statins lowered testosterone by -0.40 nmol/l (95% CI -0.05 to -0.75). Overall statins lowered testosterone by -0.44 nmol/l (95% CI -0.75 to -0.13).

Conclusions

Statins may partially operate by lowering testosterone. Whether this is a detrimental side effect or mode of action warrants investigation given the potential implications for drug development and prevention of non-communicable chronic diseases.

See commentary article here http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/11/58 webcite

Keywords:
androgen; cardiovascular; cholesterol; diabetes; inflammation; statins; testosterone