The relationship between circulating testosterone and inflammatory cytokines in men

Aging Male. 2019 Jun;22(2):129-140. doi: 10.1080/13685538.2018.1482487. Epub 2018 Jun 21.


Testosterone is the predominant gonadal androgen in men. Low testosterone levels are found to be associated with an increased in metabolic risk and systematic inflammation. Since adipose tissue is a source of inflammatory cytokines, testosterone may regulate inflammation by acting on adipose tissue. This review aimed to explore the role of testosterone in inflammation and its mechanism of action. Both animal studies and human studies showed that (1) testosterone deficiency was associated with an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines; (2) testosterone substitution reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines. The suppression of inflammation by testosterone were observed in patients with coronary artery disease, prostate cancer and diabetes mellitus through the increase in anti-inflammatory cytokines (IL-10) and the decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α). Despite these, some studies also reported a non-significant relationship. In conclusion, testosterone may possess anti-inflammatory properties but its magnitude is debatable. More evidence is needed to validate the use of testosterone as a marker and in the management of chronic inflammatory diseases.

Keywords: Androgen; inflammation; inflammatory markers; interleukins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Interleukin-10 / blood
  • Interleukin-1beta / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Testosterone / pharmacology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • IL10 protein, human
  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-10
  • Testosterone