May 1, 2007 / 10:36 PM / 13 years ago

Testosterone cream fails as sex drive booster

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Testosterone cream does not appear to boost the sex drives of women cancer survivors suffering from low libido, a new study shows.

“The idea is that libido is probably more complicated than just testosterone alone,” Dr. Debra L. Barton of the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, the study’s lead author, told Reuters Health. “It’s a complicated issue that’s probably going to take a broader, more complicated solution.”

Some studies have found testosterone cream can help restore sexual interest in women with low libido, Barton and her team note in a report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute this week.

They conducted the study to determine if the hormone cream could also be helpful to female cancer survivors, who frequently experience a drop in sex drive, especially after treatment for breast or gynecologic cancers.

The researchers randomized 150 women to receive the testosterone cream or a placebo cream for four weeks, after which they were switched to the opposite treatment for an additional four weeks.

While women given testosterone showed an increase in blood levels of the hormone, their change in libido was the same whether they were on the real testosterone cream or the placebo.

All studies in which testosterone cream was found to help increase libido were conducted in postmenopausal women taking estrogen, the researchers note. But because women in the current study were cancer survivors, estrogen supplementation was not an option, even though their levels of estrogen were low.

It’s likely, Barton and her colleagues conclude, that a woman must have adequate levels of estrogen in order for testosterone to be an effective treatment for low libido.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Drs. Patricia A. Ganz and Gail A. Greendale of the University of California, Los Angeles say addressing low sex drive in female cancer survivors “must take a comprehensive approach,” and should address body image, mental health and partner relationship.

SOURCE: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, May 2, 2007.

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