Adverse effects of androgen deprivation therapy and strategies to mitigate them

Eur Urol. 2015 May;67(5):825-36. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2014.07.010. Epub 2014 Aug 2.


Context: Androgen-deprivation therapy (ADT) is a key component of treatment for aggressive and advanced prostate cancer, but it has also been associated with adverse effects on bone, metabolic, cardiovascular, sexual, and cognitive health as well as body composition.

Objective: To review the current literature on the adverse effects of ADT and strategies for ameliorating harm from ADT.

Evidence acquisition: The Medline database (through PubMed) was searched from inception to August 1, 2013, for studies documenting the side effects of ADT and for randomized and prospective trials of interventions to mitigate those side effects.

Evidence synthesis: Adverse effects of ADT include decreases in bone mineral density; metabolic changes such as weight gain, decreased muscle mass, and increased insulin resistance; decreased libido and sexual dysfunction; hot flashes; gynecomastia; reduced testicle size; anemia; and fatigue. Several observational studies suggest an increased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular events, although most published studies report that ADT is not linked to greater cardiovascular mortality. Randomized trials have found value in treatments for some adverse effects including bone loss (bisphosphonates, denosumab, selective estrogen receptor modulators), markers of metabolic syndrome (exercise, diet, metformin), gynecomastia (tamoxifen, prophylactic radiation), muscle loss (resistance and aerobic exercise), and hot flashes (venlafaxine, medroxyprogesterone, cyproterone acetate, gabapentin).

Conclusions: ADT is often a necessary component of the treatment of aggressive prostate cancer, yet it has known harms that can impair health and quality of life. Clinicians should be aware of interventions that can help mitigate these adverse effects.

Patient summary: Androgen deprivation therapy is a critical component of the management of aggressive and advanced prostate cancer, but it causes adverse effects including bone loss, metabolic changes, gynecomastia, muscle loss, hot flashes, and possibly increased cardiovascular events. Clinicians should be aware of interventions that can help mitigate these adverse effects.

Keywords: Androgen deprivation therapy; Prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgen Antagonists / adverse effects*
  • Androgen Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal / therapeutic use
  • Body Composition / drug effects
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / chemically induced
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / chemically induced
  • Gynecomastia / chemically induced
  • Hot Flashes / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Diseases / chemically induced
  • Muscle Proteins / drug effects
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Quality of Life / psychology*


  • Androgen Antagonists
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Hormonal
  • Muscle Proteins