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.