Testosterone in women--the clinical significance

Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2015 Dec;3(12):980-92. doi: 10.1016/S2213-8587(15)00284-3. Epub 2015 Sep 7.


Testosterone is an essential hormone for women, with physiological actions mediated directly or via aromatisation to oestradiol throughout the body. Despite the crucial role of testosterone and the high circulating concentrations of this hormone relative to oestradiol in women, studies of its action and the effects of testosterone deficiency and replacement in women are scarce. The primary indication for the prescription of testosterone for women is loss of sexual desire, which causes affected women substantial concern. That no formulation has been approved for this purpose has not impeded the widespread use of testosterone by women--either off-label or as compounded therapy. Observational studies indicate that testosterone has favourable cardiovascular effects measured by surrogate outcomes; however, associations between endogenous testosterone and the risk of cardiovascular disease and total mortality, particularly in older women, are yet to be established. Adverse cardiovascular effects have not been seen in studies of transdermal testosterone therapy in women. Clinical trials suggest that exogenous testosterone enhances cognitive performance and improves musculoskeletal health in postmenopausal women. Unmet needs include the availability of approved testosterone formulations for women and studies to elucidate the contribution of testosterone to cardiovascular, cognitive, and musculoskeletal health and the risk of cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Androgens / administration & dosage
  • Androgens / physiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Estradiol / administration & dosage
  • Estrogens / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menopause
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology
  • Testosterone / administration & dosage
  • Testosterone / physiology*
  • Vagina / drug effects
  • Women's Health*
  • Young Adult


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Testosterone
  • Estradiol