June 17, 2010
“Chaps feel the change too,” reported the Daily Mail. The newspaper said that some doctors have believed in the male menopause for years, but that until now the condition has not been properly defined. It said a recent study confirms that some men may benefit from hormone therapy, but that the number is much smaller than expected.
This was a cross-sectional study in middle aged and older men. It found that a combination of at least three sexual symptoms and lower testosterone levels can be used to diagnose late-onset hypogonadism, in which the testes produce few or no hormones.
This condition is not a male equivalent of the menopause. It is rare, affecting just over 2% of men in this study. Importantly, there were only small differences in average testosterone levels between men with symptoms and men without them, suggesting that there may be other, age-related reasons for sexual symptoms in older men, unrelated to hormone levels.
This study supports previous research suggesting that hypogonadism in older men is relatively rare. Establishing criteria for this condition is important to prevent over-diagnosis and unnecessary hormone treatment.
Where did the story come from?
The study was carried out by researchers from a number of centres at universities in the UK, Europe and Canada. In the UK, centres included the Universities of Manchester, Glasgow, University College London and Imperial College London. It was funded by the European Community and published in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.
The Mail’s headline could be misleading, as it implies that most men experience a condition similar to the female menopause, when the study found the opposite to be true. However, the story goes on to point out that the “male version” is rare, and the rest of the newspaper’s report is generally correct.