Dihydrotestosterone administration does not increase intraprostatic androgen concentrations or alter prostate androgen action in healthy men: a randomized-controlled trial

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Feb;96(2):430-7. doi: 10.1210/jc.2010-1865. Epub 2010 Dec 22.


Context: Concern exists that androgen treatment might adversely impact prostate health in older men. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), derived from local conversion of testosterone to DHT by 5α-reductase enzymes, is the principal androgen within the prostate. Exogenous androgens raise serum DHT concentrations, but their effects on the prostate are not clear.

Objective: To determine the impact of large increases in serum DHT concentrations on intraprostatic androgen concentrations and androgen action within the prostate.

Design: Double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled.

Setting: Single academic medical center.

Participants: 31 healthy men ages 35-55.

Intervention: Daily transdermal DHT or placebo gel.

Main outcome measures: Serum and prostate tissue androgen concentrations and prostate epithelial cell gene expression after 4 wk of treatment.

Results: Twenty-seven men completed all study procedures. Serum DHT levels increased nearly sevenfold, while testosterone levels decreased in men treated with daily transdermal DHT gel but were unchanged in the placebo-treated group (P < 0.01 between groups). In contrast, intraprostatic DHT and testosterone concentrations on d 28 were not different between groups (DHT: placebo = 2.8 ± 0.2 vs. DHT gel = 3.1 ± 0.5 ng/g; T: placebo = 0.6 ± 0.2 vs. DHT gel = 0.4 ± 0.1, mean ± se). Similarly, prostate volume, prostate-specific antigen, epithelial cell proliferation, and androgen-regulated gene expression were not different between groups.

Conclusions: Robust supraphysiologic increases in serum DHT, associated with decreased serum T, do not significantly alter intraprostatic levels of DHT, testosterone, or prostate epithelial cell androgen-regulated gene expression in healthy men. Changes in circulating androgen concentrations are not necessarily mimicked within the prostate microenvironment, a finding with implications for understanding the impact of androgen therapies in men.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00490022.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Androgens / blood
  • Androgens / metabolism*
  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Dihydrotestosterone / adverse effects
  • Dihydrotestosterone / metabolism
  • Dihydrotestosterone / pharmacology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Endpoint Determination
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Ki-67 Antigen / analysis
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Male
  • Microdissection
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostate / drug effects
  • Prostate / metabolism*
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Dihydrotestosterone
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00490022