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Hormone cream seen failing to restore women's lost libido

Other researchers say study too short to write off treatment's benefits

Hormone cream seen failing to restore women's lost libido

Sexual desire among female cancer survivors wasn't enhanced by the use of a skin cream containing the hormone testosterone, according to new research.
The cream was no more effective than a dummy treatment in improving libido in 150 postmenopausal cancer survivors in a trial. The study, conducted by Debra Barton and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, will be reported today in the Journal of the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
While testosterone is the main sex hormone in males, it also plays a role in female libido. The substance often declines in post-menopausal woman, diminishing sex drive and causing fatigue and hot flashes. Some cancer therapies can hasten the onset of menopause, eroding production of sex hormones.
"Although ovarian hormones play an important role in the maintenance of sexual health in women, a large body of evolving information about sexual functioning, and dysfunction, suggests that these hormones may be necessary but not sufficient to overcome disorders of desire and arousal in women," said Patricia Ganz and Gail Greendale of the University of California's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles, in an editorial also published in the journal.
The women in the study were randomly assigned to receive a testosterone cream or a placebo daily for four weeks, and then switched to the other treatment group for an equally long period. The researchers measured the patients' sexual desire with a questionnaire before treatment, then again at four and eight weeks.
No difference
There was no statistically significant difference in libido between those on the testosterone therapy and placebo groups during the first or second treatment period, the authors said. Both groups showed increased libido compared with levels before treatment, suggesting a placebo effect.
"You cannot conclude a lack of benefit from this study because it is too short," said Susan Davis, a professor of women's health at Monash University in Melbourne, in a telephone interview. "Studies that have shown a benefit of testosterone treatment in otherwise healthy populations have shown that there is a minimum of eight weeks of treatment needed before a difference between testosterone treatment and the placebo is seen."
Barton and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic said the negative result may be explained by low levels of estrogen, a female hormone, among the study participants.
Testosterone is part of the group of hormones called androgens. Estrogens, produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands, are derived from androgens.
"If providing supplemental estrogen to women who are postmenopausal is required to obtain a benefit from androgen therapy, then it does not appear that androgen supplementation would be a viable option for women who must avoid estrogen replacement," the authors wrote.
Women using hormone replacement therapy were 20 percent more likely to develop and die from ovarian cancer, according to an April 18 study in the Lancet, a British medical journal. A separate report, in the New England Journal of Medicine last month, said U.S. breast cancer rates plunged after women stopped taking the hormones in 2002 because of ties to heart disease and cancer.


Updated : 2021-07-25 08:57 GMT+08:00