Symptomatic hypogonadism in male survivors of cancer with chronic exposure to opioids

Cancer. 2004 Feb 15;100(4):851-8. doi: 10.1002/cncr.20028.


Background: Profound hypogonadism has been noted in patients receiving intrathecal opioids. The purpose of the current study was to determine whether chronic consumption of oral opioids by male survivors of cancer also would lead to central hypogonadism and whether this hypogonadism was associated with symptoms of sexual dysfunction, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

Methods: A case-control study was conducted at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX), in which 20 patients who were chronically consuming opioids were compared with 20 matched controls. Patients completed the Sexual Desire Inventory (SDI), the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy with general and fatigue subscales (FACT-G/FACIT-F), and the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) questionnaires. Serum samples were collected for testosterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH).

Results: Comparing the opioid group with the control group, 18 of the 20 patients (90%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 65-98%) exhibited hypogonadism, compared with 8 of the 20 control patients (40%; 95% CI, 19-64%). The median testosterone level was 145 ng/dL versus 399.5 ng/dL (5.0 nmol/L vs. 13.9 nmol/L; P < 0.0001), the median FSH level was 2.85 milli-International Units (mIU)/mL versus 5.3 mIU/mL (P = 0.08), the median LH level was 1.8 mIU/mL versus 4.2 mIU/mL (P = 0.0014), the median SDI-dyadic score was 18.5 versus 40 (P = 0.01), the median SDI-solitary score was 0 versus 5 (P = 0.007), the HADS (anxiety) score was 8.5 versus 5.5 (P = 0.053), the HADS (depression) score was 7.5 versus 1.5 (P = 0.0002), the FACT-G score was 64 versus 96.3 (P = 0.0001), and the FACIT-F score was 24 versus 46 (P = 0.0003).

Conclusions: Survivors of cancer who chronically consumed opioids experienced symptomatic hypogonadism with significantly higher levels of depression, fatigue, and sexual dysfunction. With the increasing use of opioids among patients with cancer, further research in improving quality-of-life outcomes is warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depression
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Fatigue
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypogonadism / chemically induced*
  • Hypogonadism / epidemiology
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Quality of Life
  • Sexual Dysfunction, Physiological / chemically induced
  • Sexuality
  • Survivors
  • Time Factors


  • Analgesics, Opioid