Incidence of invasive breast cancer in women treated with testosterone implants: a prospective 10-year cohort study

BMC Cancer. 2019 Dec 30;19(1):1271. doi: 10.1186/s12885-019-6457-8.


Background: Testosterone implants have been used for over eighty years to treat symptoms of hormone deficiency in pre and postmenopausal women. Evidence supports that androgens are breast protective. However, there is a lack of data on the long-term effect of testosterone therapy on the incidence of invasive breast cancer (IBC). This study was specifically designed to investigate the incidence of IBC in pre and postmenopausal women (presenting with symptoms of androgen deficiency) treated with subcutaneous testosterone implants or testosterone implants combined with anastrozole.

Methods: The 10-year prospective cohort study was approved in March 2008 at which time recruitment was initiated. Recruitment was closed March 2013. Pre and postmenopausal women receiving at least two pellet insertions were eligible for analysis (N = 1267). Breast cancer incidence rates were reported as an unadjusted, un-weighted value of newly diagnosed cases divided by the sum of 'person-time of observation' for the at-risk population. Incidence rates on testosterone therapy were compared to age-specific Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) incidence rates and historical controls. Bootstrap sampling distributions were constructed to verify comparisons and tests of significance that existed between our results and SEER data.

Results: As of March 2018, a total of 11 (versus 18 expected) cases of IBC were diagnosed in patients within 240-days following their last testosterone insertion equating to an incidence rate of 165/100000 p-y, which is significantly less than the age-matched SEER expected incidence rate of 271/100000 p-y (p < 0.001) and historical controls.

Conclusion: Long term therapy with subcutaneous testosterone, or testosterone combined with anastrozole, did not increase the incidence of IBC. Testosterone should be further investigated for hormone therapy and breast cancer prevention.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Implants; Incidence; Prevention; Testosterone; Women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anastrozole / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Cohort Studies
  • Drug Implants
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Testosterone / therapeutic use*


  • Drug Implants
  • Anastrozole
  • Testosterone